The 11.5 million leaked documents comprising the so-called Panama Papers are sending shockwaves across the world of business and politics, as leaders are accused of shady, tax-dodging efforts overseas. China is also in the crossfire.
Eight family members of current or former senior leaders in China’s ruling Communist party have been accused of having offshore companies set up by the document aggregator Mossack Fonseca. The Panama-based law firm is connected to more than 15 locations known as tax havens. Among the named is the brother-in-law of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Not surprisingly, China’s state-run media is calling accusations of Chinese leaders an invention by the West meant to divide Beijing.
“The Western media has taken control of the interpretation each time there has been such a document dump, and Washington has demonstrated particular influence in it,” read an editorial by China’s Global Times. “Information that is negative to the U.S. can always be minimized, while exposure of non-Western leaders…can get extra spin.”
Already a country with little press freedom, some analysts are worrying that China is about to make it harder for foreign journalists to operate in China.
“the Party ruling groups…will intensify repressiveness to keep the truths about system corruption revealed by the Panama Papers out of China,” says Edward Friedman, China specialist and professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, in an interview with Forbes. “They also will understand the Panama Papers to be another item in a supposedly endless effort of the West to undermine Communist Party rule. Ruling groups will tell the Chinese people that the Panama Papers are a Western invention aimed at making China weak and dependent on the West.”