By Martin Arnold, Banking Editor, in Davos

The first of many debates about China at Davos this year made an unexpectedly hostile debut this morning as Zhang Xin, head of Beijing’s biggest property developer Soho, was put on the spot over the country’s crackdown on corruption.

“Your industry is one of the most corrupt in China,” said moderator Andrew Browne, China editor of the Wall Street Journal, as he asked Ms Zhang to share her views on the issue.

The billionaire property executive managed to laugh off the question, before explaining how President Xi Jinping’s campaign to stamp out corruption was widely supported in her country. “People in China watching these corruption cases are just as fascinated as people in the rest of the world,” she said. “People are astonished at how power
can be corrupted at such a high level. Until you clean up corruption you cannot really move forward.”

Steve Schwarzman, Blackstone chief executive, chimed in by saying that corruption was “really a big deal for China” as the country ranked alongside Mexico and India for its overall level of graft. “If they don’t address this they will end up with a destabilised situation.”

But this hasn’t stopped Blackstone from moving into China’s soaring property sector, and Mr Schwarzman said the private equity group had snapped up a number of assets including a part-built skyscraper in Shanghai.

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