Did she really just say that? Xin on democracy

Our 60 Minutes team went to China to meet a rich and famous real estate mogul, but they got a surprise instead

It happens rarely. But every once in a while, during a 60 Minutes interview, someone will drop a bomb into the conversation and say something that shocks even our veteran correspondents. That happened to Lesley Stahl in this week's interview with a Chinese billionaire named Zhang Xin.

When Lesley and her producer Shachar Bar-On went to China to meet Xin, they thought it was an assignment to profile a rich and famous real estate mogul. Instead, they got a surprise: Xin (pronounced shin) took the interview to a place they couldn't have predicted. Why would a woman who has everything to lose risk angering the Chinese government with a few remarks on American television? It certainly wasn't the result the of a "gotcha question."

 

"What she said was not really responding to a question I asked, so it just bubbled up from within her," Lesley told us.

What Xin said was that the Chinese people feel a great longing for democracy, and she predicted that democracy would come to China in less than 20 years. For most Americans, it's difficult to grasp what a shocking statement this is for the Chinese, especially when delivered in an interview with the Western media.

"I mean, the story was about real estate-- she didn't have to go there," says producer Bar-On. "We asked, 'Are you OK? Is this fine?' and she said, 'You know 60 Minutes doesn't come often to China, and I think Americans should know this. And I'm just gonna say it.'"

To hear Xin's full remarks on democracy in China and to read her social media posts on the topic, watch the above 60 Minutes Overtime feature.


COMMENT:
What do you think of Zhang Xin? Do you agree with her prediction that democracy will come to China in less than 20 years?

Weibo translation provided by Shuai Zhang, News Associate in the CBS News Beijing bureau


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