The biggest political story in China this year isn't in Beijing. It isn't even in China. It's centered at a $68 million apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan.
That's where Guo Wengui, a billionaire in self-imposed exile, has hurled political grenades at the Chinese Communist Party for months, accusing senior leaders of graft using Twitter as his loudspeaker. He escalated his attack by claiming that members of the family of China's second most powerful official, who oversees the country's anticorruption effort, secretly own a large stake in a major Chinese conglomerate.
The Chinese government responded by unleashing the state-controlled media to enumerate Mr. Guo's alleged frauds, and asking Interpol to put out a global warrant for his arrest.
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But then something unexpected happened. China stood down. The state media campaign against him tapered off. In mid-May, Mr. Guo announced on Twitter that his wife and daughter — previously barred from leaving China — had been allowed to visit him in New York.
"We need to root out some of the robbers of this country," Mr. Guo, referring to China, told two New York Times reporters this month at his apartment. To emphasize the point, he wrote it out in Chinese in a notebook. "We are against using corruption to root out corruption."
Mr. Guo's allegations are unproved, and some of his claims have been outlandish and easily debunked. Yet amid his barrage of charges about China's powerful and wealthy are claims that have turned out to be accurate. And the government's treatment of Mr. Guo, whose former political patron was one of China's highest-ranking intelligence officials, suggests he may be taken seriously, perhaps even supported, by some officials in Beijing.
Mr. Guo's most recent claims have reverberated across China and fed unease on Wall Street about doing business there. The assertions, if substantiated, could upend politics in China, the world's second-biggest economy, possibly driving a wedge between President Xi Jinping and Wang Qishan, the anticorruption czar.
Mr. Wang, the focus of Mr. Guo's allegations, has close ties to Wall Street, with enormous influence over China's financial sector. Mr. Guo's assertions come just months before a Communist Party meeting that will decide whether Mr. Wang, recently the focus of speculation that he may become China's next prime minister, will remain on the party's elite Politburo Standing Committee.
Mr. Guo's Twitter broadsides have continued, and his ability to stare down the world's most powerful authoritarian nation has underscored the mystery, in China and abroad, about how he acquired his billions, what he knows and who, if anyone, is backing him.