Is Xi Cracking Down With ‘New Starting Point’?

Clay Chandler worries about VPNs banned, 'gray rhinos' targeted and power consolidating in China.

July 31, 2017 10:00 am

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s declared Thursday that China’s development has reached a “new historical starting point.” Clay Chandler, Fortune’s Asia editor reporting from Shanghai, is skeptical.

While China’s economy continues to grow at a steady clip, Chandler sees Xi doubling down on policies that include “a zealous campaign against graft, expanded support for state-owned enterprises, and new measures to strengthen the party’s grip on China’s economy and society.”

China has cracked down on virtual private networks, or VPNs, that allow its citizens to access the internet beyond the Great Firewall. Chinese officials recently ordered Apple to remove all major VPNs from its App Store, TechCrunch reports.

Meanwhile, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party warned its readers about the dangers of a “gray rhinoceros.” These gray rhinos are not animals, but big Chinese conglomerates that pose risks to the financial system because they have borrowed too much.

China’s bank regulators have scrutinized four gray rhinos. “At least one, Dalian Wanda, was an established business with a coherent global strategy,” Chandler writes. He worries that Chinese officials are squeezing privately owned Chinese companies and slowing global expansion as Xi consolidates power.

“The optimistic view is that the many recent measures to tighten political control in China are temporary and that Xi will loosen up after the Party Congress once he has his ducks in line,” Chandler writes. “It’s a comforting thought. If only there were more evidence to support it.”

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