Chinese President Xi Jinping's glamorous singer wife Peng Liyuan used to perform with them. But so too did less reputable women, including several who became the center of public scandals. Now, after more than six decades of service, the Chinese People's Liberation Song and Dance Troupe has been disbanded, reports Taiwanese newspaper China Times.
Founded in 1953, the troupe's main mission was to boost PRC army morale and entertain the Chinese public with propaganda songs touting the Communist Party. But it was revealed in recent years that some of its top stars lived in villas and drove luxurious cars, which contrasted with the lifestyle and salaries of ordinary military officials.
One singer in particular achieved notoriety. Tang Can, a singer from the central province of Hubei, joined the troupe only to help it gain a reputation as a breeding ground for corruption and debauchery. Her name was linked with Zhou Yongkang, the former head of the Chinese security apparatus, who became the first Politburo Standing Committee member since the founding of the People's Republic of China to be tried and convicted on corruption-related charges. Known as the "military enchantress", Tang has since disappeared from view.
According to New York-based Chinese-language NTDTV channel, the troupe's dissolution is partly due to Xi's plan to downsize the army, but is also meant as a response to some female members' involvement in "improper relationships" or dealings with corrupt officials and businessmen. Some referred to the song-and-dance outfit as a "harem" for high officials that supplied party bigwigs with "warm beds."
NTDTV said that it was not at all surprising that this very public stage of the People's Liberation Army became the first target of President Xi's military reform, which is said to include the reduction of some 300,000 non-combat military personnel.
China's current First Lady Peng Liyuan has long been a popular national singer, and once a member of the troupe early in her career. She later served as the commander of the troupe before her husband became the Communist Party chairman.