China’s leadership is increasingly worried about the effect gambling is having on the combat readiness of its military forces. It’s been about 18 months since President Xi Jinping launched his crackdown on both ‘tigers’ and ‘flies’ who engage in activities on which China’s leaders frown. China’s elites have responded by avoiding conspicuous consumption that might attract unwanted scutiny, like partying it up in Macau.
But high-profile scandals among the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) top brass continue to shake China’s confidence in its institutions. Two generals were sacked after having earned billions of yuan by selling promotions to underlings, who make their bribes back by engaging in graft with contractors. The practice is reportedly commonplace, leading a retired PLA officer to tell Reuters that corruption was stifling the army’s development.
The PLA’s crisis of confidence comes just as China’s government ratchets up regional tensions over seabed ownership disputes. The Study Times, a state-sponsored weekly paper, cited gambling as one of the corruptive elements that precipitated the collapse of the Qing dynasty, with the implicit understanding that the same fate could well await today’s leadership.
You can look, but there’s no Macau casino scene in The Last Emperor. But if we can imagine old Puyi in a Macau casino, we can make it happen (pictured). That was the genesis of the scam run by an intrepid blackmailer on the Chinese mainland, who Photoshopped the faces of of Communist Party officials into images depicting all manner of forbidden activities, including porn shoots and gambling games.
The media reports take pain to mention the quality of images the man produced using just a Lenovo computer and an Epson digital printer, which makes us suspect the story is simply clever native advertising. Regardless, the blackmailer, identified by China media sources only as Mr. Zhang, convinced around 50 Party officials to cough up a combined RMB 2.1m (US $340k) rather than allow the doctored images to be distributed.
But Zhang’s jig was up after an official in Sichuan province called the blackmailer’s bluff and alerted the cops, leading to Zhang’s arrest last Christmas and sentencing this week to 13 years in prison. A similar scam in Hunan province was busted last year after earning RMB 4.5m from gullible officials and businessmen.
Finally, these pictures below aren’t Photoshopped. According to a Shanghaiist post, this is Beijing artist Li Binyuan running through the streets wearning nothing but luminous blue paint. Why, you ask? Well, it’s art, and art is what the artist says it is. Li says he was inspired by a recent spate of gambling losses. (As you do…) What’s the blowup doll for? Uh… representing the baccarat dealer that screwed him over, maybe?