Zhang Gaoli was best known as a low-key technocrat. Then a Chinese tennis star’s allegations made him a symbol of a system that bristles against scrutiny.
Before Zhang Gaoli was engulfed in accusations that he had sexually assaulted a tennis champion, he seemed to embody the qualities that the Chinese Communist Party prizes in officials: austere, disciplined, and impeccably loyal to the leader of the day.
He had climbed steadily from running an oil refinery to a succession of leadership posts along China’s fast-growing coast, avoiding the scandals and controversy that felled other, flashily ambitious politicians. He became known, if for anything, for his monotone impersonality. On entering China’s top leadership, he invited people to search for anything amiss in his behavior.
“Stern, low-key, taciturn,” summed up one of the few profiles of him in the Chinese media. His interests, Xinhua news agency said, included books, chess and tennis.