(p. A10) For years, Li Guangman, a retired Chinese newspaper editor, wrote in obscurity, firing off attack after attack at chic celebrities and celebrated tycoons whom he accused of betraying the sturdy socialist values of Mao. Few outside of China’s fervent but narrow world of Maoist leftists read them.
Mr. Li leapt to prominence recently after an essay he wrote railing at celebrity culture and misbehaving corporations ricocheted across China’s internet, spreading on far-left-wing websites and then on at least five major Communist Party-run news websites, including the People’s Daily, suggesting support from at least some officials.
The official boost for Mr. Li’s polemic startled Chinese political and business circles when doubt had already been rising about the growing role of the Communist Party in the economy. Among some, the essay left the impression that the party could intensify its crackdown on private corporations, tighten its grip on culture and hound the rich. Some critics pointed ominously to echoes of Mao’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, which had also emerged from attacks on the cultural elite by polemicists who were previously little known.
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(Note: the online version of the story was updated Sept. 11, 2021, and has the title “Incendiary Essay Ignites Guessing Over Xi’s Plans for China.”)