BO XILAI’S POLITICAL CAREER, CHONGQING MODEL AND RED CULTURE REVIVAL

BO XILAI’S POLITICAL CAREER

According to China.org, the Beijing government website: Bo Xilai is an ethnic Han and native of Dingxiang, Shanxi Province, born in July 1949. He joined the CPC in October 1980 and began working in January 1968 after graduating from the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, majoring in international journalism. He holds a Master of Arts degree. [Source: China.org]

From 1968 to 1972 Bo did manual labor in a "study class" during the "Cultural Revolution." From 1972 to 1978: he was a Worker of the Hardware and Machine Repair Plant under Beijing Second Light Industry Bureau. In 1978-1979 Bo was an undergraduate student majoring in world history at the Department of History of Peking University. From 1979-1982 to he was a postgraduate student majoring in international journalism at the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

From 1982 to 1984 Bo was a staff member of the Research Office of the Secretariat and of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee. From 1984 to 1988 he served successively as deputy secretary and secretary of the CPC Committee of Jinxian County, Liaoning Province, and secretary of the CPC Committee of Jinzhou District of Dalian City (1985-1988: concurrently as deputy secretary and secretary, of Party Committee of Dalian Economic and Technological Development Area).

Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times: "Bo was also adaptable. As mayor of Dalian in the 1990s, he sought to remake the northeastern coastal megalopolis into a new Singapore. To waves of favorable publicity, his government rewarded citizens who reported rude taxi drivers and fined those who uttered unpleasantries like “nao you bing,” or, roughly, “numbskull.” In Dalian, and in Chongqing, he could pursue liberal causes as easily as leftist ones. He proposed experimenting with direct elections in local townships, courted foreign investment, mounted aggressive tree-planting and pollution cleanup campaigns and built low-income housing."

Mo Zhixu wrote in China Change, “When Bo Xilai was elected a member of the CCP Political Bureau during the 17th CCP Congress in 2007, he was in effect excluded from the future lineup for top leadership of the party and the country. He was not appointed to be one of the deputy prime ministers of the State Council as he had desired; he wasn’t even appointed the party secretary of a more important area such as Shanghai or Guangdong. Instead, he was sent to Chongqing to replace Wang Yang, while Wang Yang was appointed to be the party secretary of Guangdong province. For Bo Xilai, proud and ambitious, it was no doubt a humiliation. The political practices he introduced in Chongqing, in my opinion, were not about vying for a top leadership position in Beijing but an act of resentment meant to showcase his unique political ideas and his personal charisma. [Source: Mo Zhixu, China Change, September 30, 2013]

Members of Bo Xilai’s Inner Circle

Members of Bo Xilai’s inner circle included Xu Ming, 41, listed by Forbes as China’s eighth-richest person in 2005; Yu Junshi, a former intelligence agent; and Ma Biao, a businessman, known for his girth. Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield wrote in the New York Times, Yu moved to Chongqing before Bo arrived in December 2007 for his posting as party chief. Mr. Bo had sent him to gather information and build relations, according to people who have met Mr. Yu, a former intelligence officer for the People’s Liberation Army. Mr. Yu had been posted to Bangkok in the 1990s, but an agent in his network defected, and the members of his group were recalled and punished. After Mr. Yu left the intelligence service, he returned to his hometown, Dalian, where Mr. Bo was mayor and Mr. Xu was building up his companies. [Source: Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times, May 20, 2012]

“Mr. Yu was investigated by the police over his business activities, and he enlisted the help of Gu Kailai, a lawyer married to Mr. Bo. He soon became friends with Mr. Bo; Mr. Xu, the billionaire; Mr. Ma, the businessman; and Mr. Wang, who was a police officer in the surrounding province of Liaoning, said people familiar with this history. “Bo Xilai is fascinated by spies, so he likes to make friends with intelligence agents,” said Yang Haipeng, an investigative journalist in Shanghai. In a microblog post on April 24, Mr. Yang wrote that Mr. Yu was an ex-spy turned “henchman” for the Bo family who had been detained in March. Censors deleted Mr. Yang’s microblog account, and security officials asked him for his source. [Ibid]

“Mr. Yu, well read and well mannered, moved in rarefied circles in Chongqing and kept a low profile. He was thrust into the spotlight only once, when two dogs he kept at a home in Olympic Garden Villas, a German shepherd and a pit bull terrier, bit a man to death last July, said one person who has visited Mr. Yu at the home.” Wang Lijun, the police chief at the center of the scandal that brought Bo down in 2012, “persuaded Mr. Yu to put the dogs to sleep. “A dog that has caused so much trouble for you will make trouble again; it will jinx your future,” Mr. Yu recalled Mr. Wang saying, according to the person. The episode was reported in The Chongqing Evening News. Mr. Yu told the reporter he worked in the financial industry. [Ibid]

“Business executives seeking to curry favor with Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang sometimes approached Mr. Yu. In 2009, Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang started a crackdown on criminal gangs that was also an offensive against private entrepreneurs and Mr. Bo’s enemies. Fearful of being unfairly ensnared in the crackdown, Yin Mingshan, the founder of Lifan Group, a motorcycle company, arranged a banquet with Mr. Yu, said two friends of the banquet’s organizer. “All the bosses needed protection,” one of them said. Representatives of the company did not answer calls seeking comment. Right after the campaign began, Mr. Xu and Mr. Ma started real estate projects in Chongqing through a complex web of companies. “Bo Xilai would always give Xu Ming advantages in doing business,” said one person. [Ibid]

Bo Xilai's Super Rich Friend Xu Ming

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Just 21 when Bo came to Dalian, Xu became a billionaire within a few years. At one point, according to Forbes, he was the eighth-richest man in China. He showed his appreciation by showering the Bo family with his largess. Xu allegedly flew the family on first-class trips to Europe and paid for Bo's son to attend the $40,000-a-year Harrow boarding school in London. He hired a law firm run by Gu. He is also suspected of buying various properties for the Bo family, including the stunning villa in Cannes. "It was a typical relationship between a politician and a businessman — they traded power and money," said Jiang Weiping, a Chinese journalist who was imprisoned after reporting on corruption in Dalian. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2013 \\\\]

Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield wrote in the New York Times, “In the 1990s, Mr. Xu built up his main conglomerate, Dalian Shide, whose holdings range from home appliances to finance to building materials, by winning contracts from local officials, including a lucrative deal to provide window frames while Mr. Bo was mayor of Dalian. Mr. Xu also received generous loans from state banks, including from China Guangfa Bank, where Mr. Ma was a branch chief. Mr. Ma left the bank years ago and started an insurance company. After Mr. Bo arrived in Chongqing, Mr. Ma and Mr. Xu set up several companies to develop Chongqing real estate, according to financial records and information from government and company Web sites. Mr. Xu and Mr. Ma have roles in at least three companies founded in 2009: Chongqing Heshengyu Real Estate Development, Chongqing Shenghe Construction and Guanghua Huihuang. [Source: Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times, May 20, 2012]

“Mr. Xu found ways to keep himself veiled. He sometimes used a Hong Kong company, Golden International Investment, to invest in local companies. Records in Hong Kong list Mr. Xu and three other Dalian Shide executives as the directors of Golden in 2003. The companies bought at least 123 acres of land in Chongqing, according to Chinese news media reports. Mr. Xu and Mr. Ma often met their allies discreetly in hotels. One sweltering night last summer, Mr. Ma walked with Mr. Yu, the former spy, into the lobby of the Nanshan Lijing Resort, set in misty hills on the city’s outskirts. Mr. Wang, the police chief, greeted them there in a respectful manner, and they dined with Mr. Xu, said one witness. The resort was known as a rendezvous point for people close to Mr. Bo, and Mr. Heywood’s body was found in a villa there on Nov. 15. Police investigators determined that Mr. Heywood had been poisoned, and suspected Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was involved. [Ibid]

Bo Xilai’s Political Career in Dalian

In 1988-1989 Bo was a member of the Standing Committee and head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Dalian Municipal Committee, Liaoning Province. From 1989 to 1992 he was a member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Dalian Municipal Committee of Liaoning Province and vice mayor of Dalian City. In 1992-1993 he was Deputy secretary of the CPC Dalian Municipal Committee of Liaoning Province and acting mayor of Dalian City.

From 1993 to 1999 Bo was Deputy secretary of the CPC Dalian Municipal Committee of Liaoning Province and mayor of Dalian City. In 1999-2000 he was a Member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Liaoning Provincial Committee, secretary of the CPC Dalian Municipal Committee and mayor of Dalian City. In 2000-2001 he was Deputy secretary of the CPC Liaoning Provincial Committee and acting governor of Liaoning Province.

From 2001 to 2004 Bo was Deputy secretary of the CPC Liaoning Provincial Committee and governor of Liaoning Province. From 2004 to 2007 he was Minister of Commerce, deputy secretary and then secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group of the Ministry of Commerce.

Bo Xilai's Success as the Mayor of Dalian

Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times: “Barely a decade after taking his first desk job at Communist Party headquarters in Beijing, Mr. Bo was named mayor of Dalian, a city of about six million on the north Pacific coast, in 1992.” There “he began to hone the political skills and a hunger for authority that would come to define his career.” [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, May 6, 2012]

The mayor’s job was a plum—the central government was pouring billions into reviving its coastal cities—and Mr. Bo oversaw a lavish effort to remake Dalian, a graceful but rundown seaport, in the image of Hong Kong. A building boom replaced empty factories with office and apartment towers; companies from nearby Japan made Dalian a beachhead for investment in China. Mr. Bo poured billions of renminbi into splashy ventures like annual international fashion shows and beer festivals, civic sculptures and a program that draped the city in seas of freshly planted grass. [Ibid]

“Mr. Bo attended seven and eight events a day in the style of an American mayor in full re-election mode. He relentlessly hyped Dalian’s soccer team, China’s best, as an icon of civic pride. “You could argue that none of these things are basic to the well-being of the people, but you had the sense it appealed,” said Stephen MacKinnon, an author and longtime scholar of China who knew Mr. Bo in the 1980s and early 1990s. “It was flashy.” [Ibid]

“Mr. Bo’s self-promotion was equally splashy: by the mid-1990s, a celebrity chronicler had penned a fawning history of his Dalian accomplishments, and pro-Bo articles were being planted in major newspapers nationwide. Dalian gained an international buzz, and Mr. Bo vaulted to governor of surrounding Liaoning Province and a seat on the Central Committee, which includes about 370 of the party’s most powerful figures. “He was accompanied wherever he went by a battalion of fabulous young women wearing Madonna headsets and sassy little sailor outfits,” The South China Morning Post gushed in 2004, recounting a dinner with the governor on a ship docked at Dalian port. “He circulated easily between tables, shaking hands with every man, woman and child on board, graciously accepting the many requests for photos and autographs that his celebrity status guaranteed. Later, when he spoke on stage, his enraptured audience seemed powerless to resist him.” [Ibid]

Bo Xilai’s Political Career in Chongqing

From 2007 to 2012 Bo was Secretary of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee and member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. Bo’s posting in 2007 to Chongqing, the New York Times reported, deep in China’s interior, was seen by some as an effort to sideline him. Instead, it became the base for his campaign to join the Politburo’s Standing Committee, the nine-member body at the peak of the Communist hierarchy whose membership will turn over this fall.

Bo was sent to Chongqing by the Communist Party elite in part because the city was seen as backwater and his critics thought they couls shit him up by seding him there. Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times: “Yet any expectation that exile and a consolation-prize seat on the Politburo would bank Mr. Bo’s ambitions proved misplaced. Instead, he reprised his Dalian agenda, spending billions to plaster the city with ginkgo trees, luring foreign investment, publicizing his accomplishments—and spearheading an anticorruption drive that took on aspects of the Cultural Revolution purges that claimed his father. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, May 6, 2012]

In Chongqing, a sprawling municipality of 32 million people, Bo embarked on a series of campaigns. Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: Bo’s ideology is decidedly un-American, in the 1950s-McCarthyism sense—he’s a hard-core Maoist best known for a campaign to sing revolutionary songs—but his style was straight out of American politics. In public, he spoke without a script and basked in media attention, loudly protesting his innocence to journalists on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress the week before he was fired. That didn’t sit well with China’s tight-lipped apparatchiks. “They were offended by his courting the media and promoting himself as a personality,” said Patrick Chovanec, an economist and political analyst at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. “If that became the new template of how you compete in Chinese politics, a lot of them would have been in trouble.” [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2012]

Bo Xilai’s Policies and the Chongqing Model

Reuters reported: Sharply dressed in a party of stolid conformists, Bo arrived in Chongqing in 2007 and promoted the city as a bold egalitarian alternative to China's current pattern of growth. As the "princeling" son of a revolutionary leader, Bo had added claim to speak on behalf of the party's traditions. But his promotion of Mao Zedong-inspired "red" culture and sweeping crackdown on organised crime prompted fears that he risked reviving some of the arbitrary lawlessness of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s - a criticism that Premier Wen Jiabao laid before the public in mid-March.

Willy Lam of the Jamestown Foundation wrote in China Brief, “Since Bo became party chief of China’s most populous city in late 2007, the flamboyant former minister of commerce has made headlines with his no-holds-barred advocacy of Maoist norms. In his speeches, the charismatic Bo has profusely cited Mao-era slogans such as “plain living and hard struggle” and “human beings need to have [a revolutionary] spirit” He has resuscitated Cultural Revolution-vintage revolutionary operas. Bo...even asks his secretaries to regularly text-message Mao quotations to the city’s students On the economic front, the high-profile “princeling” has made waves with his attempts to go after “red GDP,” a reference to economic construction that exemplifies Maoist egalitarianism. Chongqing has emerged as a national pacesetter in social-welfare policies such as providing subsidized public housing to the city’s masses [Source: Willy Lam, Jamestown Foundation, China Brief, December 17, 2010]

Andrew Higgins wrote in the Washington Post: Bo had a keen interest in economics and a reputation for getting things done. Nobody paid much attention to the fate of Jiang Weiping, a journalist who spent five years in jail after he reported on how Bo had covered up corruption among friends and relatives while working as a senior official in Manchuria in the 1990s. [Source: Andrew Higgins, Washington Post, March 4, 2012]

Lam wrote in China Brief, Xilai “Apart from staging revolutionary operas and putting up Mao statues, Bo and company have sought to take better care of disadvantaged sectors in the municipality by building more social-security apartments and providing near-universal health care and pension. Singing the praise of “redness” means supporting what is right, Bo, a leading member of the so-called Gang of Princelings, said recently. A city must do a good job of nurturing spiritual civilization. He added that cadres who are obsessed with GDP rates—but who lack spiritual values—may go down the road of corruption and degeneration (China News Service, April 20; Chongqing Daily, March 18). [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief, April. 29, 2010]

Bo promoted the “Chongqing model,” a system of governance that mixed old-style communist morality, modern economic efficiency and zero tolerance of crime. Keith B. Richburg wrote in the Washington Post, Richburg wrote: “The “Chongqing model,” as it has been called in the local media, seemed to win an endorsement from the top when China’s leader-in-waiting, Vice President Xi Jinping, made a brief visit in December and applauded the city for “upholding socialist norms.” Other senior leaders have also traveled here to show their backing. But Bo, in the interview, said he was not focused on creating a national model. “I study the problems of the place where I work,” he said. ‘so right now, I am just focused on the problems of Chongqing.” [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, June 29. 2011]

Bo Xilai’s Anti-Crime Campaign

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The anti-crime campaign, known as ‘smash black, banish evil,” lay at the foundation of the “Chongqing model.” Chongqing’s assault on alleged mafia networks began in 2009 and has been loudly applauded by many locals, who cheered the arrest of feared hoodlums and the 2010 execution of Wen Qiang, a notoriously corrupt official who ran the city’s police force from 1992 until 2008. Chongqing’s notorious criminal gangs blossomed over the years because of the city’s strategic location where the Jialing River meets the upper Yangtze River, creating a lucrative smuggling route. [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, June 29. 2011]

No official numbers are available, but the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily reported in February that from the beginning of the anti-crime campaign until September, 10,372 people were arrested and 1,000 sentenced to forced labor. Some lawyers and human rights activists have criticized the campaign, saying that the rights of defendants were trampled on. Some lawyers have also alleged that criminals were tortured.

Many say the anti-crime sweep, like the red culture campaign, might be related to Bo’s national ambitions, including his desire to win a seat next year on the Communist Party’s powerful nine-member Politburo standing committee. Many analysts called Bo a likely candidate to replace Zhou Yongkang, who oversees the domestic security apparatus and will be retiring.

Bo’s controversial dahei or anti-triad campaign have been popular in some circles. Future Chinese President Xi Jinping praised Chongqing’s “hair-raising struggle to combat triad gangs and extirpate evil criminals.” “Police and law-enforcement officers took the lead and went through the test of life and death to realize outstanding achievements,” Xi said. “The Chongqing party committee has scored a major victory in safeguarding the basic rights and interests of the broad masses... The anti-triad campaign is deeply popular and it has brought joy to the people’s hearts.” [Source: Lam, China Brief, December 17, 2010]

Wang Lijun was Bo’s hand-picked chief of police and the enforcer behind a controversial crackdown on Chongqing's gangs and the politicians and policemen who protected them. The campaign won Bo national attention and praise among his constituents, resulting in 2,000 arrests, 500 prosecutions and 13 executions, including that of the former director of the city's Judicial Bureau over bribery, rape, extortion and gang-related charges.

For more on Bo’s dahei or anti-triad campaign See Triads and Organized Crime

Criticism of Bo Xilai’s Anti-Crime Campaign

Le Weifang fought organized crime in Chongqing and wrote “An Open Letter to the Legal Field in Chongqing” at a time when the administration of justice was entirely reduced to a tool for persecution. He told Global Viewpoint: In the several years of the so-called “crackdown on crime,” Chongqing’s authorities definitely instigated many activities that trampled on the rule of law, deprived the people of their wealth, and extracted forced confessions on a large scale. From Chongqing’s official media reports at that time, Bo Xilai was the guiding force behind this wave of activities. That is to say, he was the person who was chiefly responsible for the many false and unjust cases that occurred in Chongqing. [Source:He Weifang, Global Viewpoint, Christian Science Monitor, August 29, 2013. He Weifang, a professor of law at Peking University, is one of China’s most pre-eminent advocates of the rule of law and judicial independence.]

John Garnaut wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, “Nationwide resistance to Bo's red-tinged agenda began when liberal lawyers, journalists, and intellectuals began speaking out against the repression that followed his political campaigns. When Bo arrested prominent lawyer Li Zhuang in December 2009, civil society leaders started framing the debate over Bo's political experiment in Chongqing as a proxy battle for the future of China: would it move right, towards economic liberalisation and universal values, or left, to the ideals of communism. Those on the left believed the problems of corruption, inequality and moral torpor could be solved only by a stronger party-state. Those on the right believed unbridled state power was the problem, as the country had learnt at catastrophic cost under Mao.[Source: John Garnaut. Sydney Morning Herald, August 22, 2013. John Garnaut is the author of “The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo”*=*]

”Red Culture” Revival

Bo also gained notoriety for a citywide campaign to revive Mao-era communist songs and stories, dredging up memories of the chaotic Cultural Revolution, although Bo claimed he wasn't motivated by politics and only wanted to boost civic pride. The campaign fizzled after initial bursts of positive publicity.

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Bo and his family
Reporting from Chongqing before the approach of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China in July 2011, Keith B. Richburg wrote in the Washington Post, “The country is being swept up in a wave of orchestrated revolutionary nostalgia...The local satellite television station recently stopped broadcasting sitcoms and now shows only “revolutionary” programs and news. Government workers and students have been told to spend time working in the countryside. The local propaganda department launched a “red Twitter” micro-blogging site, blasting out short patriotic slogans. [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, June 29. 2011]

And in what seems like a throwback to the days of the Cultural Revolution, residents have been encouraged—or told—to read revolutionary books and poetry and to gather regularly in parks to sing old songs extolling the Communist revolution. A recent Sunday gathering, including a colorful, choreographed stage pageant, attracted an estimated 10,000 flag-waving people, many in uniforms and red caps and mostly organized by the party chiefs in their schools and factories.

The red culture campaign revival is the pet project of the local Communist Party secretary, Bo Xilai, a former commerce minister and son of Bo Yibo, a Mao Zedong contemporary who was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. Bo defended the red culture campaign, saying, “We aim to encourage people’s spirits.” He said his campaign has four aspects: reading Chinese and foreign classics, including the theories of Mao and other Marxist leaders; telling popular stories; circulating inspiring mottos; and group-singing of revolutionary anthems. “We should spread these things more,” Bo said.

Many here, including Communist Party adherents, agree that this revival of revolutionary fervor is needed to instill a new sense of pride and common purpose, adding that they feared that China’s decades-long rush to get rich has eroded the country’s moral bearings and created an ethos of unchecked materialism. “When I sing red songs, I find a kind of spirit I never felt when singing modern songs,” said Zhang Chenxi, a third-year student at Southwest University here. “To surround yourself with material stuff is just a waste of time.”

For others, particularly those old enough to remember the bloodshed and chaos of the decade-long Cultural Revolution that began in 1966, the red culture campaign is an unwelcome reminder of one of the darker chapters of China’s recent turbulent history. The Cultural Revolution played out particularly violently in Chongqing, with clashes in the streets involving knives, heavy weapons and tanks.”For people of my generation, it’s like a return to the Mao era,” said a 57-year-old lawyer who had attended a middle school in Chongqing and asked not to be quoted by name. “I saw the beatings of the teachers by the Red Guards. It was horrible,” the lawyer said. “Young people may not recognize it. But for us who lived through it, how can we possibly sing?”

Richburg wrote in the Washington Post, in June 2011, “Bo took his efforts to Beijing, with a 1,000-member Chongqing singing troupe, including small children and the elderly, performing red songs for audiences at several concert halls. Most senior party officials stayed away, but mid-level officials were in the audience.Some critics said they were rattled by this apparent revival of Maoism and red culture, which seems to be gaining traction nationwide. [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, June 29. 2011]

'Red Song' Campaign in 2011

Reporting from Chongqing, Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times,” Although her musical tastes run to Mariah Carey and Norah Jones, Vicy Zhang didn't hesitate when she received an instant message inviting her to sing paeans to Mao Tse-tung at a celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. "How could I refuse?" said Zhang, a 26-year-old graduate student at Chongqing University who hopes to join the party and have a career in civil service. "I thought it was boring and useless, but I didn't dare say no."[Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, June 03, 2011]

More than 10,000 students and faculty members participated in the event last month. Although Zhang wore an evening gown, other students were dressed as Red Army soldiers, with red epaulets and armbands. Carrying red flags, they danced around a university athletic field with arms swinging rhythmically to martial music harking back to China circa 1966.

Throughout China, people are singing and dancing in homage to the Communist Party. The "red song" campaign began in Chongqing, where it was launched by party Secretary Bo Xilai, an ambitious politician who is believed to be angling for a seat on the Standing Committee of the Politburo."Red songs depict China's path in a simple, sincere and vivid way," Bo was quoted as saying by state news agencies in November. "There's no need to be artsy.... Only dilettantes prefer enigmatic works."

In conjunction with the 90th anniversary celebration in 2011 of the founding of the Communist Party of China was in Shanghai in 1921, the red song phenomenon has spread throughout the nation. In Beijing's subways, television screens show transit employees competing in a red song competition. In some parts of China, karaoke clubs have restricted playlists of Taiwanese love songs in favor of patriotic mainland ballads.

Under orders from the local propaganda department, Chongqing satellite television suspended its soap operas in favor of patriotic songfests. From April 20 to May 20, local newspapers had to publish the lyrics to familiarize the populace with the songs.Outside the airport, a billboard as high as a seven-story building features photographs of pink-cheeked young Chinese students and workers urging the public to "Sing Red Songs! Spread the Truth! Raise Your Spirits!" In public parks, retirees set up portable stereos and dance in long lines to songs praising Mao, even in Shapingba Park, which is next to an overgrown cemetery where thousands of people killed in the fighting of the late 1960s are buried.

Enthusiasm for the 'Red Song' Campaign

On Wednesday and Friday mornings at 7 a.m., former schoolteacher Cao Xingfen, 66, led fellow retirees through an elaborate dance routine set to red music, beneath billboards advertising Ermenegildo Zegna suits and Louis Vuitton bags. "These songs have a good rhythm; it's easy to dance to them," said Cao, a petite, silver-haired fireplug of a woman dressed in red pajamas. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, June 03, 2011]

No doubt there is a genuine gusto for red songs, particularly among the older generation, for whom Communist marching songs are the campfire tunes of their childhood. On a balmy recent evening, a dozen people twirled through the dark in Renmin Park, the dancing figures illuminated by slivers of fluorescent light from a nearby beauty salon.

"We know these songs from our youth. We grew up with revolutionary spirit and we want to pass that on to our children," said Cai Derong, 55, who wiped his brow as he watched his wife, dressed for the occasion in a silky black-and-white dress, dance with one of her girlfriends. "Our economy is good. We want to express our appreciation to the Communist Party," piped in a middle-aged woman, Zhang Jin, who was also taking a break from the dancing.

Criticism, Lack of Enthusiasm and Mockery of the 'Red Song' Campaign

To critics, the Maoist revival has echoes of the maniacal quest for political correctness during the Cultural Revolution. "People with a sense of history look at it and wonder whether it is possible to go back to an era in which cruel things would happen again," said Alan Zhang, a recent law school graduate from Chongqing and blogger who, like other students interviewed, agreed to be quoted using only an English name. "The red song campaign has made Chongqing a laughingstock," he said."It's not that everyone is required to sing and love the songs. What we are seeking is a wider participation," Xu Chao, the Chongqing official in charge of the program, told the party-controlled Global Times.

At Chongqing's universities, those invited to participate in Communist Party anniversary celebrations were primarily party members and aspiring party members, many of them top students who see membership as a prerequisite to jobs in government or academia. "You have to accept when you get an invite, or you will be considered politically incorrect," said Owen Chen, a 24-year-old student and party member. "In our country, these are the kinds of things you have to do." [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, June 03, 2011]

When the invitations were sent out, students jokingly turned red song into a verb, saying to one another "I've been red songed. Have you been red songed?" Participation meant going to rehearsals up to twice a day in the weeks before the May 11 performance."I didn't see a single student who sang these songs with passion," Vicy Zhang said.

It wasn't just the inconvenience; the politics were distasteful to the students too. They said the performances looked just like the "loyalty dance" everybody was required to do during the Cultural Revolution, moving arms from the heart to the sun in a display of boundless devotion to Mao.

As soon as the music died, one of the older men sat down on a stone bench next to a reporter and in a loud voice offered up contrary opinion. "These people are all afraid to tell you the truth. They're dancing to these red songs because it is all they have in their brain. For 40 to 50 years, they've heard nothing else. The propaganda songs have drowned out regular Chinese folk music," said the man, Hu Jiaqing, 60. "It is just like the Cultural Revolution: They're using these big campaigns and movements to cover up their social problems.” None of the other dancers argued. They just drifted away in the dark.

Bo Xilai, an Advocate of Multiparty Democracy and a Threat to the Party Leadership?

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Bo Yibo
Francesco Sisci wrote in the Asia Times, “Are these buds of multiparty democracy in China? Is it democracy with Chinese characteristics or just intra-party democracy? It's a new shape to the old power struggle for sure - but what is it really? It is certainly a new action in ossified Chinese politics, and a development that's taking place on the eve of a historical party congress, one where, for the first time, there is no one single elderly leader to choose his successors.When Bo took over as party leader in Chongqing “he broke the traditional succession truce with his predecessor, Wang Yang, and launched an unprecedented anti-mafia campaign. It was something that Beijing people saw as an insult to Wang, a fellow Politburo member who was moved to head the Guangdong party. Why had Wang tolerated the mafia when Bo would not? Was it really the mafia, or was it something else?” [Source: Francesco Sisci, Asia Times, April 20, 2011]

Bo’s revival of Maoism Sisci wrote “was a line he started on its own and that actually perplexed Beijing leaders, uncertain about what to think of this local campaign: whether to approve it and allow it to spread nationwide, or censor it and thus expose the rift in the party's allegedly unified propaganda policy. In either case, Bo had set the agenda, and Beijing was on the defensive. Thus Beijing astutely decided to simply ignore it.

“If it matters, then we are seeing the birth of conflicting interests in China: Bo against the others,” Sisci wrote. “But who are the others? Some conflicting interests in China are out in the open: rival companies competing for market share or provinces competing for resources and attention from abroad and Beijing...But this is no longer a classic power struggle; it is something new. There are opposing lines with opposing think-tanks...There are parties within the party. It may be a matter of time before this becomes formalized. Crushing it seems very difficult, although it might not be impossible.”

“What we see with Bo is no petty experiment of a village election involving a few hundred voters; it is a top Chinese leader campaigning for a top government position in the 2012 congress. After he sets the example, others could follow it and campaign in the same manner. Formalization of the opposing lines or of those campaigns could be just a matter of time.”

Willy Lam wrote after the October 2011 Central Committee meeting,” Despite the relative enthusiasm with which the chang hong (‘singing red songs’) movement has been received in different cities, the Central Committee did not give its imprimatur to reviving Maoist culture. The plenum communiqué urged all Chinese to “use as motivation [the spirit of] reform and creativity” so as to create cultural products that are “geared toward modernization and focused on the world and on the future.” “We must raise the cultural standard of all the people, boost the nation’s cultural soft power, propagate Chinese culture and assiduously build up a culturally strong socialist country,” it said. That no reference whatsoever was made to “red culture” seems to support the thesis that the country’s two top leaders—President Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao—are not fans of Bo’s chang hong persuasion. Moreover, despite the metropolis’s status as one of China’s four centrally administered cities in addition to being the business hub of western China, neither Hu nor Wen has visited Chongqing since Bo became its party boss in late 2007.[Source: Willy Lam, China Brief, Jamestown Foundation, October 28, 2011]

Bo's near-desperate efforts to claim credit for the "Chongqing Model" also suggest his political fortunes may be waning or, at least, under attack. In early October, Bo invited the younger brother of Deng Xiaoping, Deng Ken, to write two scrolls of calligraphy for the city: “Never cease to strengthen oneself” and “Both hands must be equally tough.” This was apparent praise for Chongqing’s success in nurturing both material and spiritual civilization. At about the same time, Chongqing Dailyran a long interview with the retired cousin of Hu Jintao, Hu Jinxing. Hu, who heads a charitable organization in Shanghai, eulogized the Bo administration for “doing good work for the people’s livelihood and upholding the path of egalitarianism.” Hu added “Chongqing has provided valuable experience for exploring the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Within the largely conservative Chinese political tradition, it is uncommon for a politician to promote himself aggressively by soliciting the help of the relatives of either former or current party chiefs .

Not everything however has been going against Bo. The unexpected appearance of ex-president Jiang Zemin on October 9 at a Great Hall of the People gathering marking the centenary of the 1911 Revolution is considered to be positive news for princelings such as Bo. The 85-year-old former top leader’s failure to show up at a July function celebrating the CCP’s 90th birthday had given rise to widespread speculation that he was close to death. Jiang, who is himself a princeling, was a good friend of Bo’s now-deceased father, party elder Bo Yibo.

Similarities of Bo Xilai’s Red Culture Drive to the Cultural Revolution

In March 2011, Chen Youxi, a lawyer for a target of Bo’s anti-crime campaign, warned that Bo's disregard for law recalled the Cultural Revolution. John Garnaut wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, “Chen was joined by another renowned and courageous lawyer, He Weifang, who had studied law in Chongqing in the idealistic years after Mao's death in 1976. “So many things have happened in this city with which we are so intimately familiar, things that cause one to feel that time has been dialled back, that the Cultural Revolution is being replayed, and that the ideal of rule of law is right now being lost,” he wrote in an open letter in April 2011. *=* [Source: John Garnaut. Sydney Morning Herald, August 22, 2013. John Garnaut is the author of “The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo”*=*]

“The lawyers' warnings struck a chord with Hu Deping, the eldest son of Hu Yaobang, China's most popular reform-era leader, so he invited them in for talks. As party chief in the 1980s, Hu had warned his children that the lessons of the Cultural Revolution had not yet been learnt. But Hu himself was purged in 1987, without a trial or legal process, before he could do much about it. Xi's father Xi Zhongxun, who worked alongside Hu, was the most senior elder who stood up for him. *=*

“Throughout 2011 Hu Deping rallied his liberal princeling allies, including two of Xi Jinping's sisters, with a series of unprecedented seminars. “There seems to be a 'revival' of something like advocating the Cultural Revolution,” said Hu. “Some do not believe in the Cultural Revolution but nevertheless exploit it and play it up,” said Hu, referring to Bo, whose mother was murdered or pressured to commit suicide during the Cultural Revolution. Privately, Hu repeated a similar message to two of his father's proteges: the then president and premier, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, according to a source familiar with those exchanges. *=*

“The men and women of China's political elite came of age in an environment of psychological and physical brutality that is unimaginable for their counterparts in the developed world. Especially cruel ordeals were reserved for “children of high cadres,” as they were known, when Mao's courtiers accused their parents of disloyalty to the revolution. What seemed most troubling, among princelings who knew Bo well and agreed to be interviewed, was that he had glorified the same Mao-era movement that killed his mother. The Bo family was not the only one that suffered. Many princelings bear grim tales of family members tortured and murdered. President Xi cannot attend a family funeral, wedding or Spring Festival event without facing the absence of his oldest sister, Xi Heping. She committed suicide near the end of the Cultural Revolution, in 1975, according to family friends. *=*

Fang Hong, a forestry official, was sent to a labor camp for a year for posting a scatological ditty online that mocked Bo. Fang's was no isolated case of extralegal abuse — dozens of people were locked up for various minor transgressions, said Fang, whose case was overturned by a court recently. "It was a time of red terror," he said in a recent interview. "The labor camps were overflowing with people." [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August 20, 2013]

Chongqing Model Indebted More to Deng Than Mao?

Mo Zhixu wrote in China Change: “A close look at Bo Xilai’s work in Chongqing, especially in the highly controversial “singing red and striking black” campaign, one will find that, the so-called Chongqing Model is in keeping with the “China Model” initiated by Deng Xiaoping: use two hands and keep both strong. In terms of developing the economy on the one hand and maintaining stability on the other, Chongqing under Bo Xilai was not really any different from anywhere else in China, nor was the conduct there more egregious than anywhere else. Liberals in China made loud complaints about many incidents in Chongqing, such as the crackdown on private entrepreneurs (striking black) and many gratuitous re-education-through-labor cases. But keep in mind that the nation-wide clampdown during the so-called “Jasmine Revolution” in 2011 against dissidents and activists was just as harsh, if not worse, whether in terms of legal abuses or the extent of torture. Chongqing Model was at most an alternative version of the stability-maintenance system, not something different. [Source:Mo Zhixu, China Change, September 30, 2013. Mo Zhixu, pen name of Zhao Hui, is a Beijing-based Chinese dissident intellectual and a frequent contributor of Chinese-language publications known for his incisive views of Chinese politics and opposition. He is the co-author of “China at the Tipping Point? Authoritarianism and Contestation” in the January, 2013, issue of Journal of Democracy]

Similarly, “singing red” was not a return to the orthodox Maoism as the Maoists on the left had fancied, nor was it a revival of the Cultural Revolution as the reformists had worried. It was merely a red surface. The ideological mobilizations in relation to “singing red” was done level by level in the structure of the system, and it didn’t “kick out the Party committees and stage a revolution” as was the case during the Cultural Revolution. Chongqing didn’t stir up any social turmoil during the “singing red” period. On the contrary, it was rather oppressive as though under a tight lid. :::

“Nationwide, from “Five Nos” (“no multi-party election, no diversification of guiding principles, no separation of powers, no federal system, and no privatization”) avowed in the 2011 NPC session by then chairman of the NPC Standing Committee Wu Bangguo around the period as “singing red” in Chongqing, to the “seven no mentions” earlier this year, and to the ongoing anti-constitutionalism propaganda campaign, none is a mass mobilization in the style of the Cultural Revolution. Instead, they are an attempt to give ideological fuel to the rigid, hardline stability maintenance apparatus. In the end, these too are just skins. Precisely because the Chongqing Model was highly isomorphic to Deng Xiaoping’s “China Model,” during the four years of its practice, it had never been criticized by the top leadership.” :::

Bo Xilai, the Unlikely Flagbearer of China’s New Left

Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield wrote in the New York Times: “As the party pursued policies that created huge gaps in wealth and a vastly moneyed elite, many leftists found in Mr. Bo — with his expensive suits, foreign business friends and a son educated at elite schools in Britain and the United States — an unlikely beacon. The son of one of the revered “Eight Immortals” who helped lead the party in the Mao and Deng Xiaoping eras, he pursued a place on the elite Politburo Standing Committee by turning Chongqing into a showcase for policies aimed at securing both market prosperity and socialist equality. [Source: Edward Wong and Chris Buckley, New York Times, August 20, 2013 ><]

“Many on China’s far left embraced him as a potential ally; he in turn burnished his new image by luring leftist journalists, writers and intellectuals to his fief to extol the “Chongqing model” and sing red with him. (They ignored that staunch defenders of the capitalist way were also among the pilgrims — Henry Kissinger gave a speech in praise of Mr. Bo at one gala.) ><

“Bo Xilai’s Chongqing model showed that the current system can be used to restore relations between the party and the people,” said Zhang Hongliang, a teacher in Beijing who is an intellectual leader of the hard-line left. “The people in Chongqing used to say, ‘The Communist Party has come back.’ ” Mr. Zhang said that after Mr. Bo’s fall, some leftists turned against party leaders. “In particular, many people who originally supported Xi Jinping began to complain about him,” he said. “Because of the Bo Xilai incident, the whole left wing is a mess,” he added, referring to “a massive split” between those condemning the party and others who, like himself, still seek to influence it from within. ><

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated December 2013

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