Guo Wengui, the maverick Chinese billionaire who threatens to crash Xi’s party

Guo Wengui, the maverick Chinese billionaire who threatens to crash Xi’s party, by Tom Phillips.

He paints himself as the Che Guevara of Chinese crony capitalism, a billionaire insurgent vowing to bring down the system from the comfort of his $68m New York home.

“My only goal is to change China,” Guo Wengui, an eccentric and exiled Chinese property magnate, declared earlier this month on the eve of a key political convention in Beijing that he is promising to disrupt with electrifying revelations of skulduggery at the pinnacle of Chinese power. …

For months, the flamboyant real estate mogul has been disgorging reams of salacious – and largely unsubstantiated – allegations into the public sphere about some of his homeland’s most powerful figures. “They are just a tiny group of mafiosos, pure and simple,” Guo said during one of his most recent assaults on China’s house of cards. …

Writing in the Washington Times last month, Guo claimed China had become “the most corrupt, tyrannical and brutal state on earth, bar North Korea”. Only he – and his American hosts – could save it from “tyranny and barbarism”.

But Guo, an international man of mystery whose very age remains shrouded in secrecy (depending on who you believe he was born in 1967 or 1970), is an unlikely and — to many unconvincing — advocate for democratic change.

He made his fortune as a politically savvy developer, whose reputed contacts with top party officials helped him wangle a string of lucrative projects. By 2014 Guo was China’s 74th richest person, worth some £1.77bn according to a ranking of its top movers and shakers.

Last week Guo — now mired in legal disputes and with many of his assets frozen — slipped off that ranking of China’s super rich. But one of Beijing’s most unusual skyscrapers — the dragon-shaped Pangu Plaza – stands as a permanent monument to his success and, many suspect, his intimate and potentially explosive knowledge of the notoriously corrupt intersection between Chinese business and power. …

According to his telling, Guo fled to the US in 2014 after discovering he was to be detained as part of Xi’s war on corruption, and later set up camp in a luxurious 18th floor apartment in Manhattan’s Sherry-Netherland hotel overlooking Central Park. …

Meanwhile the hyperbole-prone mogul claims he has suffered “multiple kidnap and assassination attempts, unprecedented in the last 100 years of Chinese history” while in the US. Last month he asked for asylum claiming his safety was at risk because of his status as “a political opponent of the Chinese regime”.

hat-tip Stephen Neil