(p. B1) China’s economy is on a tear. Factories are humming, and foreign investment is flowing in. Even so, the wealthy and powerful people atop some of the country’s most prominent companies are heading for the exits.
The latest are Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, the husband-and-wife team that runs Soho China, a property developer known for its blobby, futuristic office buildings. In striking a deal this week to sell a controlling stake to the investment giant Blackstone for as much as $3 billion, Mr. Pan and Ms. Zhang are turning over the company as high-profile entrepreneurs come under public and official scrutiny in China like never before.
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(p. B5) “For big tycoons in China, nowadays they need to be careful in general,” said Ling Chen, who studies state-business relations in China at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
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Mr. Pan was . . . one of the first Chinese business leaders to recognize the power of the internet in marketing and public relations. He wrote a popular blog in the 2000s. Then, when the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo came along, he quickly became one of its most influential voices, amassing more than 20 million followers.
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He was never too pointed in expressing his opinions. But he wanted China to learn from its mistakes, such as its cruel treatment of the moneyed and educated classes during the Cultural Revolution.
After Mr. Xi took office as China’s top leader in 2013, the authorities began going after businesspeople and intellectuals with big online followings. The police that year arrested Wang Gongquan, a friend of Mr. Pan’s and supporter of human rights causes, on charges of disrupting public order.
Mr. Pan and Ms. Zhang began selling off property holdings in China and spending more time in the United States.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 17, 2021, and has the title “As China Scrutinizes Its Entrepreneurs, a Power Couple Cashes Out.”)