The mystery deepens when several officials, business tycoons disappear in China

The phenomenon of officials and executives disappearing in China is not new, but the speed, scale and breadth of such disappearances and firings under President Xi Jinpingregime has raised considerable concerns about the inner workings of the Chinese government.
In September, Rahm Emanuel, US Ambassador to Japanused the social media platform X to compare the recent series of disappearances among high-ranking Chinese officials to the plot of Agatha Christie’s famous mystery novel “And Then There Were None”, where guests in a British villa meet with unexplained deaths one after another.
Chen Shaojie, CEO of live streaming company DouYu, and Zhao Bingxian, chairman of Shandong Wohua Pharmaceutical, have now joined the list of the missing. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Chen has been unavailable since October. DouYu, a Nasdaq company partly owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent, has not commented on Chen’s status but says its “business operations remain normal”. Meanwhile, Shandong Wohua Pharmaceutical revealed that Zhao has been detained for investigation, although the company itself is not involved, according to a WSJ report. China’s foreign and defense ministers also disappeared from public view this summer before being removed from their posts, underscoring opaque governance under Xi Jinping.

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The reasons for these disappearances remain unclear. These incidents are part of a wider pattern. Celebrities including investment banker Fan Bao have also disappeared or been arrested. This unsettling trend has led to a significant outflow of profits from China, with foreign companies withdrawing more than $160 billion in profits due to slowing economic growth and rising geopolitical tensions, the WSJ report said.
“China prioritizes politics over economy and business, which its leaders have said many times, but many in the business community choose to ignore or simply dismiss this as just another example of political talk without practical consequences,” Zhiwu Chen, professor and Department of Finance at the University of Hong Kongbusiness schools, the WSJ said. “Now they have learned their lesson and some are no longer willing to invest in new business.”
The crackdown also affected foreign companies. The Chinese government has tried to reassure businesses and investors, with senior officials meeting with top entrepreneurs and issuing plans to support the private sector. However, business leaders remain uneasy about the unpredictable political climate and the use of arbitrary detentions, the WSJ report said.
These developments are part of a wider regulatory crackdown under Xi that affects not only businessmen but also senior political figures and well-connected entrepreneurs. The situation reflects growing concern about Chinese governance and its impact on domestic and international business confidence.

Elvira Parkinson

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