“The Peng Shuai case illustrates the paradoxes of the ‘Chinese model'”

Un a short time, a few minutes, the Empire was on the defensive. A small young woman challenged “the Party”. The very masculine Chinese leadership must have been worried. We do not take one of its members to task, especially when it comes to privacy. State secret. It is the image, regularly sanctified by Xi Jinping, of a leading group which, no one doubts, has only one concern: the greatness of China.

The story of Peng Shuai resembles one of those popular tales, as there are surely some in China, where the weak attack the powerful without us knowing at the outset what the end will be. In many ways, this story is exemplary of President Xi’s China. It illustrates the paradoxes of the “Chinese model” – and, incidentally, it says something about professional tennis today.

Recall of facts. On November 2, on his Weibo account, Peng Shuai, 35, who has been chasing the top ten places in world tennis, accuses one of the great pundits of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), now retired, of sexual assault . If she has no “Evidence” to bring, she ensures that she can no longer keep for herself a story that haunts her. Her post remains online for ten minutes before being censored, but it has been the subject of numerous screenshots: the text of the young woman does not go unnoticed abroad.

Summoned to react

For two weeks, we no longer know anything about her. Under house arrest? Interrogated by the police? The tennis community is worried. The greatest champions, women and men, ask for news. Chinese power is called upon to react. He is not in the habit of giving in to outside pressure. However, the 2022 Winter Olympics (Olympics), hosted by China, are two months away.

So, probably piloted and staged, news arrives, mid-November: a written message then filmed clips of Peng Shuai, finally a conversation of the ex-champion with Thomas Bach, the German who chairs the International Committee. Olympic (IOC). Message relayed: Peng Shuai is fine, she is at home, she would like to be left alone …

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Whatever one thinks of these “testimonies”, one fact is there: the CCP had to respond. He could not ignore the outside pressure. So was the reputation of China-great-country-open-to-the-outside, its image as a superpower hosting some of the most important sporting events of the century. No question of risking a sports boycott, the Olympics are approaching.

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