BO XILAI SACKED AT THE PARTY CONGRESS IN MARCH 2012
Three weeks after Wang Lijun sought refuge at the U.S. consulate at the 2012 Party Congress—Beijing's annual national legislative sessions— Bo admitted lapses in judgment but defended himself and his anti-mafia campaign, which had come under fire for abuses of the legal process. "I feel like I've failed in my supervision of my staff," Bo said, referring to Wang, as he leaned back in a large armchair. "This incident is something we need to seriously reflect on and sum up." [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August 20, 2013]
Ben Blanchard and Chris Buckley of Reuters wrote: “In past parliament sessions Bo has swept in, all smiles and lanky grace, preceded by a wave of TV cameras and popping flashbulbs, but this time he was uncharacteristically restrained when he appeared at a rare and packed news conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting. Bo rolled his eyes at repeated questions from foreign reporters about a scandal involving a one-time top aide, then-Vice Mayor Wang Lijun, and the normally effusive state media and parliament delegates kept their distance. [Source: Ben Blanchard and Chris Buckley, Reuters, March 15, 2012]
Gillian Wong of Associated Press wrote: “Though he looked tired, his eyes puffy, Bo exuded his signature self-confidence and charm. He smiled often as he held court in a room crowded with journalists asking pointed questions. Raising his palm as if taking an oath, Bo deflected questions about whether he was jockeying for a top spot in China's political transfer of power, then under way. He blasted reports that suggested his then-24-year-old son led a playboy lifestyle, accusing his critics of "pouring filth" on his family. Bo insisted his true concern was China's rich-poor gap. "If only a few people are rich, then we are capitalists. We have failed." Those were his last remarks in public before his trial. [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August 20, 2013]
Several days later, on March 14, 2012, then-outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao criticized Bo — without naming him — in a rare public rebuke of a party leader of that stature. Wen said Chongqing leaders "must seriously reflect on the Wang Lijun incident and learn lessons from it." Wen also took a swipe at Bo's Maoist reputation, saying China must guard against regressing to one of its most violent periods. The next day, Bo was dismissed as Chongqing party boss.
At a labor camp in Chongqing, inmates cheered at the announcement on the evening news. "We all thought: He's finally getting what he deserves," said Fang Hong, a forestry official who had been sent to the camp for a year for posting a scatological ditty online that mocked Bo. He spent that year making Christmas lights for export to Germany. 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."
Bo Xilai Admits Failure But Defends His Policies
In early March 2012, the New York Times reported: “Jockeying to salvage his political career, Bo championed his success in running Chongqing, even as he admitted failing to supervise his trusted aide Wang Lijun. The public concession of error bolstered speculation that Bo’s chances were slim to join the top ranks of the Chinese leadership during a change of power this year. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, March 9, 2012]
Speaking at a news conference during the annual National People’s Congress, Mr. Bo said he had “neglected my oversight duties” in the case of his aide, Wang Lijun. As Chongqing’s police chief, Mr. Mr. Bo’s admission on Friday reinforces accounts by government insiders who say he had earlier delivered a similar apology to the Politburo and offered to resign, although Mr. Bo on Friday called reports of that offer “totally imaginary.”
The controversy over his future has added a measure of drama to the normally bland annual meetings of the Congress. But Mr. Bo asserted---perhaps unconvincingly---that climbing to the top of China’s leadership ladder had rarely crossed his mind. “Speaking from the heart, I’ve never associated myself with anything specific about the 18th Congress,” he said, referring to the Communist Party meeting this fall that will ratify the changes in leadership.
Inside a packed room at the Great Hall of the People, Mr. Bo mounted a risky defense of his anticrime campaign, saying that Chongqing was a city run according to the law and that the crackdown was necessary both to protect citizens and create a better business environment. “On this issue, shall we pretend to be deaf, or shall we be responsible to the people?” the state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Mr. Bo as saying. “We chose the latter.”
He also displayed a bit of the flashy populism that has won the loyalty of many Chongqing citizens but has annoyed other leaders, proclaiming that China’s Gini coefficient---a yardstick for the gap between the rich and poor---had reached 0.46, a level some social scientists would call alarming. On the Gini scale, zero represents complete equality, while 1 indicates a society in which one person controls all the wealth.Reducing the wealth disparity is a major task for Chongqing’s government, he said, adding: “If only a few people are rich, then we are capitalists. We’ve failed.”
But in discussing Mr. Wang, the normally effusive and self-confident Mr. Bo chose his words with care, relying on a sheet of paper in his hand for talking points. Mr. Bo called the inquiry into Mr. Wang an isolated incident and said the results of an investigation “by the relevant central agencies” would be made public, Reuters reported. He added that Mr. Wang’s flight to the American Consulate in Chengdu took him by surprise. “I truly never expected this to happen,” Mr. Bo was quoted as saying. “I felt it was extremely sudden.”
China Sacks Bo Xilai as Chongqing Chief
In mid March 2012 AP reported: China's Communist Party replaced Bo Xilai after weeks of speculation following Wang Lijun’s fleeing to a U.S .consulate, a move that set off a public scandal affecting the country's looming once-a-decade leadership transition. The move to replace Bo Xilai appears to effectively end the public career of one of China's most highly ambitious and unusually flamboyant leaders, whose professional tribulations had dominated political discussions in recent weeks. . [Source: AP, March 14, 2012]
Once considered a candidate for a seat on the party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, Bo was replaced as Chongqing city Communist Party secretary by Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, the official Xinhua News Agency said in a one-sentence report. Bo's removal will likely spur further competition for seats on the Politburo Standing Committee. But it should also put to rest lingering speculation over his fate that had prompted near-obsessive attention from China watchers and overshadowed the just-concluded annual session of the National People's Congress, China's legislature.
Zhang, Bo's replacement in Chongqing, is an economics specialist who served for many years in the vibrant provinces of Zhejiang and Guangdong. It wasn't clear if Bo had resigned or been forced out and there was no immediate word on whether Bo remained on the party's 25-member Politburo. Bo's replacement was likely prompted by the scandal surrounding Wang Lijun.
The announcement comes just after the close of the annual session of the legislature and underscores how party leaders dealt with Bo's troubles behind the scenes while trying to project an image of unity for the public. Bo sparked new rumors by missing a key meeting of the body, but sprung back with a public appearance at which he admitted to mistakes but defended his record in Chongqing.
Still amid the rumors of political intrigue, no public explanation has been offered of what led to the rupture between Bo and Wang, a trusted aide for much of the past decade, and what transgressions led to Bo's removal. Premier Wen Jiabao offered the bluntest criticism of Bo and the affair on Wednesday telling reporters that Chongqing leaders "must seriously reflect on the Wang Lijun incident and learn lessons from this incident."
"The public is still in the dark as to what really happened and what has been found in the investigation," said Liu Shanying, expert on public administration from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "What should Mr Bo reflect on? His hiring decision? If it was only a firing decision, the consequences wouldn't have been like this. But what else did Premier Wen imply? The public is still puzzled."
On Bo’s sacking,TIME’s Hannah Beech wrote: “There is another lesson from the Bo affair that is less heartening. Only one high-level Chinese politician has cultivated a public persona in recent years---and now this populist figure has been kneecapped. The man chosen to replace Bo is another gray-faced apparatchik whose most interesting biographical detail is the fact that he studied economics at a North Korean university. Compare that with Bo, a self-promoter who lavishly publicized his red-culture campaign. He also led a high-profile crusade against local mafia that even his supporters admit netted innocents along with gangsters. Bo held press conferences and, unlike practically every other Chinese leader, didn’t read out scripted answers. He relished political theater. “Bo Xilai is not a good politician for China,” says Yang Fan, an economist who co-authored a book called The Chongqing Model and was schooled in Beijing with Bo’s brother. “If he was American, he could have been successful by winning elections. But in China, there are basically no elections, and being too high profile doesn’t mesh with our political culture.”
Damage Control After Bo Xilai’s Ouster
Michael Wines and Jonathan Ansfield wrote in the New York Times: Communist Party leaders sacked Bo Xilai, the powerful party chief of metropolitan Chongqing, after being told that he had schemed to remove his police chief and impede a corruption investigation involving his family, according to a preliminary report on Mr. Bo’s actions circulated among government officials. A version of the report, posted on a Chinese Web site and verified independently, provides a rare glimpse of the government’s internal efforts to manage one of its biggest political earthquakes in years. Some officials are worried that the purge of Mr. Bo could upset plans for a transfer of power to a new generation of party leaders this fall. [Source: Michael Wines and Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times, March 19, 2012]
The Communist Party Central Committee circulated the findings to ranking party and government officials one day after the announcement of Mr. Bo’s dismissal. Its contents were confirmed by a researcher at a ministry-level institute and by a Chongqing official briefed by colleagues who were present when the report was read at a government meeting.
Combined with other actions in recent days, the government’s decision to begin making its case against Mr. Bo suggests a campaign to discredit him. It also raises the prospect that Mr. Bo could face criminal charges, a rarity for an official of his rank. The party secretaries of Beijing and Shanghai, major metropolises like Chongqing, were dismissed in 1995 and 2006, respectively, and later were imprisoned for corruption. Like Mr. Bo, both were also members of the Politburo, the 25-member body that oversees Communist Party affairs. Both of those firings, like Mr. Bo’s, were principally viewed as the fallout from power struggles within the leadership. But a number of political analysts say they regard Mr. Bo’s dismissal as potentially more serious because it involves more than a struggle for control. “It’s not about political lines,” said Zheng Yongnian, who directs the East Asia Institute at the National University of Singapore. “It’s about whether to reform or not reform.”
The version of the party’s four-point report circulated on Friday purports to explain why Mr. Wang fled to the consulate and how the party contained the damage. In essence, it states that Mr. Wang left Chongqing because he feared for his safety after telling Mr. Bo that his family was under criminal investigation [for corruption]. In Mr. Bo’s case accusations of corruption may be part of a broader effort by Mr. Bo’s rivals in the party leadership to sully his reputation as a populist Robin Hood who wielded his power to better the lot of Chongqing’s poor multitudes.
Hu Jintao’s ally and heir apparent, Vice President Xi Jinping, published an essay in a Communist Party journal calling for more discipline in the party’s ranks and criticizing those who “play to the crowd” or use their positions to gain fame or wealth. Like Mr. Wen’s remarks at a news conference warning against radical policies that could trigger another Cultural Revolution, Mr. Xi’s article was largely interpreted as a swipe at Mr. Bo’s flamboyant rule.
Even so, Mr. Bo’s popularity and clout makes disposing of his case an “extremely dangerous” matter for party leaders, said Cheng Li, a scholar of the Chinese leadership at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “If the charge is too lenient, some senior leaders and all liberal intellectuals will not agree,” he said. “If they only charge him with corruption, that will make him a hero among many people because the general perception is that corruption is a widespread phenomenon---so why are you singling him out?”
Bo Xilai Ousted from the Politburo
In mid April 2012, Reuters reported: “China's Communist Party has banished the country's brashest and most controversial politician from its top ranks and detained his wife in connection with the murder of a British businessman, the most tumultuous upheaval in the nation's leadership in decades. The decision to cast out Bo Xilai from the party's Central Committee and its Politburo effectively ends the career of the former high-flyer, widely seen as pressing for a top post in China's next leadership to be decided later this year. [Source: Chris Buckley and Benjamin Kang Lim, Reuters, April 11, 2012]
"Comrade Bo Xilai is suspected of being involved in serious disciplinary violations," said Xinhua, citing a decision by the central party leadership to banish Bo from its top ranks. It was the most dramatic convulsion in China's secretive leadership since 1989, when Jiang Zemin was plucked from obscurity to head the Communist Party after the bloody crackdown on democracy protests in Beijing. Jiang replaced Zhao Ziyang, who was toppled by hardliners for supporting the student movement centred on Tiananmen Square that was crushed by the army with heavy loss of life.
After the announcements, the People's Daily, the chief mouthpiece of the Communist Party, told officials and citizens to unite around President Hu Jintao. "(This) appears to represent the top leadership finally reaching an agreement that it must be seen to hang together in the run-up to the leadership succession, in order to put an end to the many wild speculations surrounding the Bo case," said Steve Tsang, a professor of Chinese studies at Nottingham University in Britain.
"This means that Bo's political career is effectively over," Chen Ziming, an independent political scholar in Beijing, said before the announcement, citing rumours of Bo's suspension. The decision to suspend Bo from the party's top bodies does not mean he has been expelled from the party.
Bo’s removal from the Politburo marks the first time a member of the collective leadership has been removed since 2006 when Shanghai's party secretary, Chen Liangyu, was purged and later sentenced for corruption. Chen's removal was seen as a well-orchestrated move by President Hu Jintao to consolidate his power and remove a rival midway through his 10-year term.
Unlike past removals of defiant leaders over corruption charges, Bo's downfall has been tinged by ideological tension and triggered open opposition from leftist sympathisers who have insisted he is the victim of a plot. Residents of Bo's former power base, Chongqing, were shocked on hearing the news, said Zhang Mingyu, a businessman in the city who has accused Bo of using his crackdown on organised crime to stifle critics and legitimate business.
Bo's hopes for surviving the scandal were probably fatally wounded by his unabashed ambition, which irked many officials, said a source close to Bo and other leaders, speaking to Reuters before the announcements. "His advantage was his confidence, but his disadvantage was that he was too confident," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The signs are that he'll face trial."
The Wall Street Journal reported: While Mr. Bo's supporters in the leadership argue that he should be only mildly disciplined over Mr. Wang's actions and given a powerless but prestigious new job, opponents are thought to be pushing for more serious punishment, possibly based on Mr. Wang's allegations, according to people close to the party elite.
Unlike power struggles in previous years, this one is unfolding under the intense scrutiny of millions of Chinese Internet users, who have been trading rumors and speculation about possible scenarios over popular microblogging services, which among other things had been abuzz with rumors that domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, widely believed to be a close ally of Mr. Bo, was possibly also being purged from the Standing Committee. Mr. Zhou largely disappeared from public view and and didn't attend an important party meeting in Shanghai. Mr. Zhou was one of several top leaders who visited Chongqing in the last two years and publicly praised Mr. Bo's high-profile crackdown against organized crime and his campaign to get residents to sing Maoist revolutionary songs.
China Expels Bo Xilai from Legislaturel
In late October 2012 Chinese lawmakers have stripped disgraced politician Bo Xilai of his last official position, formally expelling him from the country's top legislature and clearing the way for criminal proceedings against him. Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press wrote: “Though largely a formality since Bo was purged from the Communist Party in September his expulsion from the congress removes his immunity from prosecution. That sets the stage for a criminal case involving accusations of corruption and other wrongdoing, including involvement in covering up the murder of Nick Heywood. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, October 26, 2012]
Moving swiftly, the top prosecutor's office announced that Bo has been placed under investigation for alleged crimes it did not specify. The brief statement said that the agency has imposed "coercive measures" on him, usually a euphemism for jail. Bo's expulsion cements an impression of unity among the leadership in rejecting his neo-Maoist approach in favor of stability under the incoming slate of leaders, said China politics expert Feng Chongyi of the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. [Ibid]
The announcement, which was published by Xinhua, the state news agency, had a long list of accusations against Mr. Bo, including taking bribes, abusing power and having improper relationships with an unspecified number of women. "The investigation is under way," state news agency Xinhua quoted a statement from the prosecutor's office as saying. He has not been seen in public since mid-March and is believed to be in detention at a Beijing prison. Beijing attorney Li Xiaolin said that Bo's wife's family has hired him and Shen Zhigeng to defend Bo, but the two lawyers are not yet formally accredited by the authorities to represent him. [Ibid]
Wang Lijun's Testimony Implicates Bo
The Chinese government released an official account of the trial of Wang Lijun that essentially accused the disgraced politician Bo Xilai of trying to cover up the murder of Nick Heywood by Bo’s wife. Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, The account was published by Xinhua said Mr. Lijun, told Mr. Bo on January 28 that his wife, Gu Kailai, was a serious suspect in the murder of Heywood. The next morning, Mr. Bo, scolded Mr. Wang and slapped him in the face, the report said. [Source: Edward Wong, September 19, 2012]
The fact that the Chinese government cited that incident in its official report of Mr. Wang’s trial, which took place in Chengdu is the surest sign yet that Mr. Bo could be charged with covering up the murder. Until now, there had been little sign of how the party might deal with his case; some analysts had said Mr. Bo might avoid criminal charges and be subject to party discipline measures instead. [Ibid]
The account of Mr. Wang’s trial suggests that Mr. Bo could be dealt with more harshly than some had expected. Mr. Bo’s name was not mentioned in the Xinhua report, but the phrase used to describe the person Mr. Wang told about the Heywood murder---the Chongqing party committee’s main person responsible at the time---is an unmistakable reference. [Ibid]
The Xinhua report does not say why Mr. Wang decided to confront Mr. Bo with the Heywood murder. But after Mr. Bo slapped him on Jan. 29, Mr. Wang asked three police allies to again collect evidence of Mr. Heywood’s murder. He instructed the police officers to keep the evidence in separate places, the report said. After he was taken to Beijing, he wrote a letter to one of the police allies, Li Yang, instructing him to give Mr. Heywood’s blood sample to investigators. [Ibid]
The account also laid out bribes that Mr. Wang had taken. It said Xu Ming, a tycoon close to the Bo family, gave Mr. Wang two properties in Beijing in 2009 that Mr. Xu had bought for more than $450,000. In July of that year, Mr. Wang released three people from custody at Mr. Xu’s request, the account said. Mr. Wang also took nearly $32,000 from Yu Junshi, a businessman, for the rental of Mr. Wang’s villa in Chongqing, the report said. In return, Mr. Wang released a detainee. Mr. Yu is a former military intelligence officer who worked as a fixer for the Bo family. Wang Yuncai, a lawyer for Mr. Wang, ontended that Mr. Wang had not taken bribes from Mr. Xu and Mr. Yu. Instead, she said, Ms. Gu arranged those favors through the men for Mr. Wang and Mr. Wang did not regard them as payments and did no favors in return. [Ibid]
Bo Xilai’s Son Defends Him
In September 2012, Bo Guagua, Bo Xilai’s youngest son, released a statement defending his father as “upright in his beliefs and devoted to duty.” In his brief statement, posted on Tumblr, the younger Bo wrote: “Personally, it is hard for me to believe the allegations that were announced against my father, because they contradict everything I have come to know about him throughout my life. Although the policies my father enacted are open to debate, the father I know is upright in his beliefs and devoted to duty.” [Source: Edward Wong, September 30, 2012]
The statement continued: “He has always taught me to be my own person and to have concern for causes greater than ourselves. I have tried to follow his advice. At this point, I expect the legal process to follow its normal course, and I will await the result.” Mr. Bo confirmed in an e-mail that the statement was authentic, but declined to comment further. [Ibid]
Charges Against Bo Xilai
Bo was suspended from the Politburo and put under investigation for “serious disciplinary violations" of Communist Party rules. Bo has not been seen publicly in months. He is being held incommunicado at an unknown location but is believed to be held in Beijing.
In July 2012, Reuters reported: “The party’s vague wording indicates that Mr. Bo is at least accused of obstructing justice in the investigation of his wife, Gu Kailai. Gu Kailai, stands accused by party investigators of murdering a British family friend, Neil Heywood, in a dispute over money. Neither Mr. Bo nor Ms. Gu have been given an opportunity to defend themselves publicly. But shortly before his dismissal, Reuters reported, Bo said that he and his family had been the victims of slanderous accusations by foes of his policies, especially his controversial crackdown on organized crime. Since Bo's sacking, supporters of his left-leaning policies and rhetoric have continued to argue that he is the victim of a political plot. [Source: Michael Martina and Chris Buckley, Reuters, July 26, 2012]
Initially it appeared that the case would be taken care of quietly but now there are signs that the very top of the party has agreed that Mr. Bo will be formally charged, the New York Times reported. “The lower levels of the party still have to figure out exactly what the charges and details look like, but the leadership agrees on how his case should be handled,” a senior party member in the party’s organization department told the Times. “It’s over.” [Ibid]
“In June 2012, The Guardian reported that authorities were also examining whether Bo was aware of his wife's actions. They detained dozens of people associated with him, including drivers and aides who worked for him when he was mayor of north-eastern Dalian in the 1990s, and questioned hundreds of people who had dealt with him, including business people and figures from the entertainment world. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, June 22, 2012]
Japanese Newspaper: Bo Suspected of Ordering Heywood’s Murder
In April 2012, the Japanese newspaper the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Bo was suspected of ordering Heywood’s fatal poisoning. According to sources connected with the Chinese Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, authorities investigating the Bo case, on the day the party's inspection commission launched a probe into Bo, on suspicion he had committed "serious discipline violations," some top party officials in Beijing received a report from a related organization that indicated Heywood's murder had been carried out upon Bo's direct order. [Source: Takanori Kato, Yomiuri Shimbun, April 20, 2012]
In March 2012, Xia Zeliang, secretary of Chongqing's Nanan District committee, was detained by investigative authorities. Xia, whom Bo appointed to the post in 2009, confessed to investigators that he had prepared poison to murder Heywood on Bo's instructions, the sources said. Xia, 50, reportedly had handed about 30 million yuan (about 390 million yen) to Bo via Gu, according to the sources. It is suspected that Bo wanted Heywood murdered because the Briton had become aware that Bo was money-laundering illegal income. [Ibid]
“Takanori Kato wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “A senior party official assembled his subordinates in a small conference room on April 10, the day the scandal became public. In an unusual move, attendees were ordered to turn off their cell phones and prohibited from taking notes. The official explained the background that led to Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, and Zhang Xiaojun, a servant at Bo's home, being suspected of conspiring to have Neil Heywood murdered in a Chongqing hotel last November. "They tried to poison Heywood with a drink, but he spat it out," the official said. "The two people then forcibly held Heywood down, and poured the poison into his mouth.” [Ibid]
“The senior official's suggestion that Bo might have somehow been involved in a murder staggered other people in the room. "He was the gangster of all gangsters," one attendee said. "The item Heywood spat out was retrieved and stored by the deputy chief of the Chongqing Public Security Bureau, and that has become a decisive piece of evidence. Wang Lijun has been applauded for cooperating in helping to unravel the truth in this incident," one official said. [Ibid]
Gu Kailai's (Bo's Wife's) Trial and Bo Xilai
After the Gu Kailai trial, Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “Bo was the biggest elephant in the room. There was one prosaic mention of his name, but no exploration of whether he had played any role in the crime. Also absent was his former aide, Wang Lijun, that pivotal player who started the case’s unraveling. Perhaps the most glaring omission was the trial’s failure to discuss the so-called economic dispute underlying the crime. Prosecutors said Mr. Heywood had been demanding $22 million from the family for a failed real estate venture. Many wondered how Mr. Bo, a civil servant, and Ms. Gu, who had not worked in years, might have been expected to come up with such a sum. The implication, many analysts say, is that the Communist Party was eager to avoid highlighting the sort of unbridled official corruption that many Chinese believe is endemic. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, August 20, 2012]
After Gu Kailai’s trial Associated Press commented: Trying disgraced politician Bo Xilai's wife for murder was the easy part in cleaning up the political mess the couple has created for China's communist party. Now comes the tough bit: punishing Bo for abuse of power without further tarnishing the party's reputation.Disciplining him quietly will save the party the embarrassment of washing its dirty linen in public but reinforce public perception that it goes soft on one of its own. Analysts say the leadership is therefore more likely to bite the bullet and try Bo in public. Time is growing tight for an announcement, since the party may want to deal with the matter ahead of a national congress this fall that will usher in a once-in-a-decade transfer of power to new leaders. [Source: Associated Press, August 13, 2012]
“John Ruwitch of Reuters wrote: “In sketching out the case against Gu for the first time, the court official also revealed that four Chinese policemen had now been charged with trying to protect her from investigation - a development that could prove dangerous for Bo, who has so far not been charged with any criminal offence. Police sources in Chongqing have said that the former Politburo member tried to shut down the investigation into his wife after being told she was a suspect. [Source: John Ruwitch, Reuters, August 9, 2012]
“As the trial took place, police dragged two Bo supporters into an unmarked car after they appeared outside the courthouse, singing patriotic songs that were the trademark of Bo's populist leadership style and condemning the trial as a sham. "I don't believe it. This case was decided well in advance," Hu Jiye, a middle-aged man wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap, told foreign reporters at the rear of the court building, which was cordoned off by dozens of police standing in heavy rain. [Ibid]
Political Attacks Against Bo Xilai
Bo acquired many enemies in his political career. Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times, “But it seems plain that Mr. Bo’s rivals within the elite are trying to make the most of his travails...An emerging drip of corruption-related disclosures this week, largely in a Chinese news media that normally exists in a state-dictated chokehold, points to an orchestrated campaign to paint Mr. Bo and his relatives as mired in graft and greed. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, April 12, 2012]
The effect could be to neuter a politician whose populist policies of wealth redistribution and corruption-fighting had endeared him to citizens of Chongqing and were gaining traction elsewhere in the nation. “It was very brutal, very tough,” said Jing Huang, a scholar of Chinese politics who heads the Center on Asia and Globalization at the National University of Singapore. “This sends a message to anyone who is behind Bo to back off. They are making Bo the poster child of corruption and crime.” [Ibid]
“Some feel Bo was set up, even framed. Duncan Hewitt wrote in China Beat: “Even some who did not necessarily sympathize with the campaigns to promote traditional socialist culture which Mr. Bo ran in Chongqing---which seemed to alarm some people in the central leadership---were suspicious, rightly or wrongly, that his ouster should have come just as he was apparently getting close to an even more powerful post in China’s leadership transition later this year. [Source: Duncan Hewitt China Beat, April 17, 2012]
BO XILAI LOYALISTS DETAINED
Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times: “Officials in critical Communist Party and government posts in Chongqing who are considered loyalists of Bo Xilai...are being detained as part of the wide-ranging investigation into Mr. Bo and his family, according to a Chongqing official and other people with knowledge of political appointments in the city. The detentions are part of an attempt by the central Communist Party to dismantle Mr. Bo’s support network and build a case against him and his wife, Gu Kailai. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, April 19, 2012]
“The detentions and, in some cases, replacements of Mr. Bo’s allies began soon after party leaders ousted him on March 15 as the Chongqing party chief, said people in Chongqing and Beijing. Among the Communist officials detained after Mr. Bo was removed from his post was Wu Wenkang, the deputy secretary general of the municipal party branch, who was considered one of a handful of people in the Bo family’s inner circle, according to businesspeople in Chongqing. Jiang Weiping, a Chinese journalist living in Canada who came into conflict with Mr. Bo after writing about him, said Mr. Wu had been close to Mr. Bo since Mr. Bo’s tenure as mayor of Dalian, a coastal city in the northeastern province of Liaoning. Mr. Wu moved to Chongqing after Mr. Bo became party secretary there in 2007. [Ibid]
“Guo Weiguo, a Chongqing police official who was also close to Mr. Bo in Liaoning Province, was recently detained as well. Senior party officials have appointed He Ting, a former vice governor of Qinghai Province, to Mr. Wang’s old job as police chief. Mr. He previously served as chief of the Ministry of Public Security’s criminal investigation department. And Chen Cungen, the head of the municipal party committee’s powerful organization department, was replaced in late March by Xu Songnan, who held the same job in the Ningxia region. One Chongqing official said that Xia Zeliang, the party chief of Nanan district in Chongqing, had also been detained. Another important associate of Mr. Bo’s whose English name is also spelled as Xu Ming (the Chinese name has different words) has vanished and is presumed to be under investigation. This Mr. Xu, 41, is the billionaire founder and chairman of the Dalian Shide Group, a conglomerate with vast holdings. [Ibid]
‘some people close to Mr. Bo appear to have avoided severe repercussions for now, including the district party chief Xu Ming, a close adviser of Mr. Bo’s whose fate was in question in late March, businesspeople in Chongqing said. A local news Web site, Hualong, noted that Mr. Xu made an appearance on April 10 at a meeting of district party officials where he pledged to support the decisions about Mr. Bo. The same day, the party announced that Mr. Bo had been suspended from his post in the 25-member Politburo. News organizations in Chongqing have reported in recent days that Mr. Xu has been appearing at events, signaling that he still has his job and is not under detention. Mr. Xu was a main architect of the famous “red song” campaign that Mr. Bo started in 2008, in which the Chongqing government urged schools, workers and neighborhood groups to organize singalongs of Maoist classics. [Ibid]
“The detention and replacement of officials in Chongqing have taken place under the watch of Zhang Dejiang, a vice prime minister who was sent from Beijing to serve as party chief in Chongqing after Mr. Bo’s ouster. Cheng Li , an expert in Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution, said in an interview with the National Bureau of Asian Research that it was important to note that Mr. Zhang is an ally of Jiang Zemin , the former top leader of China. Mr. Bo was also considered, in a broad sense, to be an ally of Mr. Jiang’s. Mr. Li said the fact that party leaders agreed that one of Mr. Jiang’s men should replace Mr. Bo showed that there was no significant split on the issue between the Jiang faction and the faction led by Hu Jintao , the current Chinese president and party chief. “This appointment means that a deal has been made and the top leadership of the party is united,” Mr. Li said. [Ibid]
High-Level Bo Xilai Allies Ousted
David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post: “The Financial Times reported that Zhou Yongkang, one of Bo’s key backers on the Politburo’s standing committee, had been forced to give up control of China’s police, judiciary and secret police. The Wall Street Journal wrote that two senior Chinese military officials, Gen. Liu Yuan and Gen. Zhang Haiyang, had been questioned about their links to Bo. Such rumors abound, all impossible to verify. Though Bo has been attacked as a “princeling” son of the party elite, some of the Politburo members who ousted him are princelings, too, including Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Xi himself. The full array of targets in the anti-Bo campaign is not yet clear, so the fallout is hard to predict. [Source: David Ignatius, Washington Post, May 18, 2012]
“Takanori Kato wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The Chinese Communist Party's discipline committee has launched an investigation into its ninth-highest official over his relationship with the former chief of the party's Chongqing branch, Bo Xilai, it has been learned. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou Yongkang--a Politburo Standing Committee member who also serves as secretary of the party's Central Political and Legislative Committee--on suspicion of violating party regulations by disclosing confidential information to Bo, party sources said Monday. [Source: Takanori Kato, Yomiuri Shimbun, April 25, 2012]
“It is extremely rare for an investigation to be launched against a Politburo Standing Committee member, the sources said. But it is uncertain whether the investigation would result in disciplinary action against Zhou, 69, because President Hu Jintao must show solidarity among the party's leadership team before its 18th convention that will be held this autumn. [Ibid]
‘some middle-level party members who have been informed about the investigation by senior officials said Zhou admitted inescapable responsibility over his relationship with Bo, but denied he was involved in any criminal activity. Zhou is suspected of disclosing confidential information to Bo that he acquired as secretary of the Central Political and Legislative Committee, a top position in charge of public security, according to judicial sources. This information is thought to be in connection to an investigation into the murder of a British businessman, which gained further scrutiny after Bo's close associate, a former police chief of the city, fled to the U.S. Consulate in Sichuan Province in February. Zhou expressed support for Bo during a subcommittee meeting of the National People's Congress in Chongqing on March 8. At this stage, the party's Politburo Standing Committee was looking into the businessman's murder. Bo's wife is now being questioned over her involvement in the incident. [Ibid]
Zhou Yongkang and Bo Xilai
Isaac Stone Fish wrote in Foreign Policy: The high-ranking official most compromised by the Bo scandal may be Zhou Yongkang. Officially ranked ninth on the Politburo Standing Committee, the top governmental body in China, until this year Zhou not only controlled China's vast domestic security apparatus including its cops, special police, and judges through his official position, but also had special connections from working in the oil sector for 40 years, which gave him a considerable amount of influence into China's energy policy, especially in places like Iran and Sudan. He also ran the office that cracks down on the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong and coordinated policy on Xinjiang, China's restive Muslim region in the far northwest. "Even someone like Hu Jintao, who nominally controls the military, has to give Zhou Yongkang considerable respect," says an academic who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. Some China experts think that in 2011, Zhou was the third most powerful person in the Chinese government. [Source: Isaac Stone Fish, Foreign Policy, May 30, 2012]
“But now Zhou, who has been described as "a man who brightens any room by leaving it" might have a much weaker grip on power. In the February meeting of the National People's Congress, eight days before Bo was removed from his post as Chongqing party secretary, Zhou was reportedly the only Standing Committee member who disagreed with the decision to investigate and remove Bo. Since then, rumors have flown that Zhou helped plot a coup with Bo, and the Financial Times reported that Zhou has given up all of his security roles. [Ibid]
“How severely has Zhou been affected by Bo's downfall “ There have been no clear official signs that Zhou's power is on the wane; at 69 years old, he is set to step down at the next People's Congress, planned for this autumn. As the head of internal security, the management of people like Chen Guangcheng falls under Zhou's remit; did Chen's dramatic escape in April weaken Zhou or was it a sign of Zhou's weakness? If Zhou leaves the Standing Committee before the fall, China's political crisis will have been far more deep and dangerous than we knew. [Ibid]
Members of Bo Xilai’s Inner Circle Detained
After Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun had their falling out three members of the inner court of Bo Xilai came to Chongqing to try to repair the damage but ultimately ended up being detained for their connections to Bo Xilai. Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield wrote in the New York Times,”The three men—two of them powerful businessmen and the other a former intelligence agent—had befriended Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang years ago. They knew both to be controlling and impulsive, and their goal was to broker a peace. The most famous of the three, Xu Ming, 41, listed by Forbes as China’s eighth-richest person in 2005, had flown in on his private jet. He and the others held separate meetings with Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang. The damage was irreparable. The former intelligence agent, Yu Junshi, rushed home and stuffed a bag with 1.2 million renminbi, or nearly $200,000, to take to a bank with Ma Biao, the other businessman, known for his girth. Then all three fled to Australia within days, fearful of the fallout from a possible investigation of Mr. Bo.” [Source: Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times, May 20, 2012]
“Those figures are now being detained as central suspects or witnesses in the Chinese government’s broad investigation into Mr. Bo’s use of power. “These are powerful men with their own style,” said one person who has met with Mr. Yu. “It was all very strange, very abnormal, the way they acted at that time.” The three men who fled to Australia have been held for two months. They left after Mr. Wang’s consulate visit, but returned to China in about 10 days on Mr. Xu’s private jet, thinking that Mr. Bo had avoided serious trouble. They were picked up by the police around the time that Mr. Bo was removed as party chief of Chongqing on March 15, according to several people who knew the men or their friends and families. One with security contacts said almost 60 people had been detained. All three had much to lose. Mr. Xu, the billionaire, and Mr. Ma, the businessman, in particular had become involved in land deals here, and feared being brought down if Mr. Bo was investigated for corruption, their associates said. [Ibid]
“The first to appear on the scene in Chongqing was Mr. Yu, a fixer for the Bo family. Mr. Xu beseeched Mr. Yu to fly to Chongqing from Beijing. On Jan. 31, Mr. Yu met with Mr. Wang for an entire night in Mr. Wang’s suite at police headquarters. The next day, his driver switched cars; picked up Mr. Ma, the businessman, at the airport; and drove him and Mr. Yu to the Foggy City Hotel, where Mr. Bo sometimes dined and held meetings. Mr. Ma met with Mr. Bo while Mr. Yu waited in the lobby. “When Ma Biao came out, his face looked ashen,” said a friend of Mr. Yu’s. On Feb. 2, the two made their run to the bank. Mr. Yu told Mr. Ma to take the bag of cash inside by himself so the two would avoid being recorded together on security cameras. Then they flew out of Chongqing. That day, the local government announced that Mr. Wang had been removed from his police chief job. [Ibid]
“Mr. Xu flew in on Feb. 3 and met with Mr. Bo. Within a week, he and the other two left for Hong Kong from northern China, and proceeded to Australia. “We thought they weren’t coming back,” one person familiar with them said. But they returned. Then on March 14, as word quietly spread of Mr. Bo’s purge, Mr. Yu realized that he and his cohorts would be detained. He told his wife and son to go for a stroll that evening outside their Beijing home, so they would not witness the arrival of the police, his wife told a friend. But the police did not arrive until later that night, and the family watched as Mr. Yu was led away. [Ibid]
Chinese Tycoon Tied to Bo Xilai Probed over Land Deal
In early April 2012, AFP reported: A Chinese tycoon with reported links to ousted leader Bo Xilai is being investigated over a land deal and alleged football match fixing, a state-backed newspaper. Xu Ming, a football club owner and one of China's richest men, was reportedly detained on March 15 -- the same day rising political star Bo was sacked as Communist Party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing. Few details have emerged about the reasons for his detention, but the 21st Century Business Herald said the probe into Xu focused on a 2009 land purchase in the northeast city of Harbin involving him and a Chongqing company. [Source: AFP, April 7 2012]
The report said the transaction involved "insider dealing" but did not provide details. It said authorities were also probing Xu in a broader crackdown on corruption in football, quoting sources. China has arrested dozens of people in relation to football match-fixing and gambling in a scandal exposed two years ago. In February, a court sentenced two top former Football Association officials to more than a decade each in jail.
Xu's business, the Shide Group, and football club are based in the northeast city of Dalian, where Bo served as mayor and communist party chief over a decade ago before rising up the political ranks. Hong Kong newspapers have reported that the two men were friends, and that Xu helped fund the education of Bo's son Bo Guagua, who attended Oxford University and the elite British school Harrow.
Bo Xilai’s Torturers Now the Hunted
Choi Chi-yuk wrote in the South China Morning Post: Chongqing authorities plan to punish law enforcers linked to the use of torture to extract confessions during a sweeping triad crackdown initiated by former municipal Communist Party secretary Bo Xilai, according to former lawyer Li Zhuang. "Relevant departments have urged Chongqing police officers who were involved in the extortion of evidence to report as soon as possible to the party what they did during the triad crackdown," said Li, who was once jailed while representing a man later convicted of being a crime boss in the municipality. [Source: Choi Chi-yuk, South China Morning Post, April 30, 2012]
Speaking during an informal legal group discussion in Xian, Li said "In my opinion, it is no different from calling on those police officers to turn themselves in, though they do not put it that way," he said. Li was jailed and stripped of his licence to practise law after being convicted in February 2010 of fabricating evidence while representing "triad boss" Gong Gangmo in Chongqing. Li was released in June last year. [Ibid]
“Li said dozens of law enforcers, including from the police, prosecution department and courts, had been detained in a new round of investigations. "The authorities in Chongqing will in May and July continue rounding up the supervisors of those police officers who have already been put under investigation," he added, referring to what he suspected would be two rounds of detentions in those months. [Ibid]
“During the informal meeting, lawyer Zhu Mingyong gave an account of his ordeal. He spent months as a fugitive after he posted a video online in July 2010 showing the fresh wounds on his client, Fan Qihan, who was later executed after being convicted as a triad boss.It was the first time Zhu had spoken publicly since posting the controversial video - which was meant to be shown as evidence that torture was used on alleged triad members detained during the massive crackdown that began in June 2009. Zhu said several task forces were set up after the video went public and he was hunted down by Chongqing police. [Ibid]
“But Zhu said he recently received a message from Chongqing police via a middleman asking for his understanding. "The Public Security Bureau in Chongqing earlier asked the husband of one of my friends to pass a message on to me that they did not mean to target and harass me then," said Zhu, adding that "they said they were assigned to do so". [Ibid]
After Bo's Fall, Chongqing Victims Seek Justice
Keith B. Richburg wrote in the Washington Post, “The dramatic ouster of Bo Xilai as Communist Party chief in Chongqing has prompted an outpouring from people who say their relatives were wrongly jailed under his rule and want the government to reopen their cases. More than 4,000 people were jailed during an aggressive anti-crime campaign that Bo launched in late 2007. While Bo insisted that he was cracking down on gangsters and lawlessness, critics say he led a brutal effort designed to punish rivals and squeeze money from local businesses. [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post il 19, 2012]
“Many of the relatives have been making the trek from the southwestern interior city of Chongqing to the home of Li Zhuang, a prominent Beijing lawyer, who they hope can help them get justice for their relatives languishing in jails back home. Most come secretly, and do not want themselves or their relatives to be identified for fear of retribution. “My place has become the petitioning office for Chongqing people,” said Li, who was receiving a steady stream of visitors. “They know I am against what Bo Xilai did in Chongqing.” L listens to the relatives’ stories and gives them advice where he can. But he tells them he is not in a position to offer legal services. In fact, he was one of the victims and is trying to have his own conviction overturned. [Ibid]
“The thousands jailed in the campaign, also called “hard strike” in the Chinese media, included gang members, wealthy businessmen, police officers and local government officials. About 1,000 people were sentenced to forced labor, and dozens executed, many after hasty trials that ignored even rudimentary judicial procedures. Many have alleged that they were tortured while in custody and confessed under duress. [Ibid]
“Li went to Chongqing in 2009 at the request of family members of Gong Gangmo, who ran a motorbike company and was accused of being part of a criminal syndicate. But Gong told the court that Li encouraged him to lie and to claim he was tortured—so Li was then arrested and jailed for 18 months after a quick trial and despite his protestations of innocense. Li was released in June 2011, after his case sparked a national outcry about the breakdown of law and order in Chongqing, where even lawyers could be arrested for defending their clients. [Ibid]
“Other victims include “Wang Tianlun, a wealthy businessman with the Jinpu Food Company, who received a death sentence that was suspended, and was forced to pay a fine of 100 million renminbi. Family members said all of Wang’s assets have been frozen. Lawyer Chi Susheng, who was hired by Wang’s family members, said she is dealing with three cases in Chongqing involving 50 people, and believes many innocent people are still jailed in the city. “I’ve been working in the criminal law field since 1979,” she said, “but I have seldom found cases dealt with like they were in Chongqing.” [Ibid]
‘scores of police officers were also jailed for alleged corruption during Bo’s campaign. But their family members maintain that the policemen, too, are innocent, and that the real goal was to remove officers believed loyal to the previous local administration. In one example, a decorated 50-year-old policeman with 30 years of experience was arrested in May 2010 for supposedly conniving with one of the jailed businessmen and taking bribes. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison, where he remains. His wife—who asked that neither she nor her husband be named—said, “They fabricated this.” The woman, who is trying to have her husband’s case reopened, sobbed when she described how he was tortured to confess and lost nearly 50 pounds. “I couldn’t even recognize him,” she said. Asked how she took the news of Bo Xilai’s downfall, she laughed and said, “You can tell from my laughter. I won’t say anything in words.” [Ibid]
“The Chongqing court could in theory reopen any case at any time; in reality, such a politically laden decision would only be made at the most senior level of the Communist Party. Li Zhuang said he is not optimistic because the sheer number of cases is too big. [Ibid]
BO XILAI'S OUSTER SEEN AS VICTORY FOR CHINESE REFORMERS
Reporting from Beijing, Keith B. Richburg and Andrew Higgins, wrote in the Washington Post: "The unceremonious firing of Bo Xilai was seen by some observers here as a victory for China's reformers and a stinging defeat for those known as the'new leftists," for whom Bo had emerged as a champion. But with the party's internal wrangling shrouded in secrecy, the latest twist in China's most tumultuous political drama in years has left many--- from ordinary Chinese to foreign China-watchers---perplexed about what is really going on behind the vermilion walls of the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing.[Source: Keith B. Richburg and Andrew Higgins, Washington Post. March 15, 2012]
"Basically, his political career is at an end," Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Beijing's Renmin University, told the Washington Post . "The Chongqing model is also over, and the chance of [China] turning leftward is finished." Jiang Weiping, a Chinese journalist who spent five years in jail after he published articles accusing Bo of shielding corrupt officials in the 1990s, said the Chongqing party chief's ouster marked an 'absolute victory' for more forward-looking officials after a long tug of war between rival factions. But even he acknowledged that'we don't have any firsthand information about decision-making at the summit of the party.
During Bo's tenure in Chongqing, neither President Hu Jintao nor Premier Wen Jiabao traveled to the province-size city of 32 million people---an omission that analysts said reflected official displeasure with Bo's 'new left' approach and what many called his media showboating. Interestingly, one who did venture to Chongqing was Vice President Xi Jinping, the apparent presidential successor who in December 2010 heaped praise on Bo's social welfare model and his 'red revival' campaign.
The day before Bo was fired, Wen made a spirited case for more political reform and openness in China and repeatedly warned of the danger of China slipping back into another Cultural Revolution. Wen's warnings in retrospect were seen as directed at least partly at Bo's 'red revival' campaign. Beijing authorities were already investigating Bo's anti-crime crusade because of allegations that the targets were often wealthy Chongqing businessmen. One of the targeted businessmen, Li Jun, who fled Chongqing in 2010, issued a statement from his hiding place abroad, saying, "I am delighted that Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun have now fallen."
Zhang Xin, the head of Soho China, a large private property developer, said in Hong Kong on Thursday that Bo's downfall "is definitely an encouraging sign."'A lot of people had begun to wonder where China is heading," she said, adding that Wen "made clear that China will reform . . . and that economic reforms are not possible without other reforms."Jiang, the journalist who was jailed, said by phone from Canada that the now-purged Chongqing party chief was running against the tide and had to be stopped."
The New York Times reported: The decision to oust Mr. Bo in the midst of a once-in-a-decade change of rulers underscores the gravity with which leaders view both his political influence and the controversy around him. After decades in which leaders were handpicked by predecessors, this year's leadership change is the first in China's Communist history that is following rules --- albeit rules known mostly only by China's leaders. Ensuring a stable transition has become a party obsession.
"If he is dislodged and this purge sticks, then the transition can move forward smoothly," Andrew J. Nathan, an expert on China's leadership at Columbia University, said of Mr. Bo. Yet "they have paid a huge price by firing him." "They have had to do exactly the thing that they hate him for doing," he told the New York Times, "which is to shred the facade of party unity. And they would have preferred not to."
According to the New York Times: Mr. Bo, 62, has built a national reputation on his charisma --- a sharp contrast to the rest of China's interchangeably bland leadership. His statist policies and promotion of a retro-Maoist culture in which citizens sang patriotic songs and dressed in red made him a darling of China's political left. But that same personality and political bent were said to nettle President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, who appeared to resent his mixing of state power over the economy and society with the promotion of his personal and political interests. Some in the elite also frowned on Mr. Bo's crowd-courting, almost Western style of politicking.
Meaning of Bo Xilai's Ouster
On Bo Xilai's ouster The Economist reported: "Behind closed doors, it is fair to assume that politics in China are no less vicious than in the Rome of Julius Caesar. The sacking on March 15th of Bo Xilai as party chief of the south-western region of Chongqing provided a rare glimpse inside those doors. The son of Bo Yibo, a leader of the Party's Long March generation, Mr Bo had seemed destined for the zenith of power in China---the nine-member standing committee of the party's Politburo. His downfall represents the biggest public rift in China's leadership for two decades. There are reasons to celebrate it; yet the manner of his going is a sharp reminder of what's wrong with China's political system. [Source: The Economist, March 17, 2012]
The first reason to cheer is that some of Mr Bo's ideas, and the style of his rule in Chongqing, were disturbing. Two policies made him famous. The first was a popular crackdown on Chongqing's 'mafia'. Many ordinary Chinese welcomed his no-holds-barred approach to going after gangsters, many of whom would have had links with corrupt officials. But there are credible allegations that Mr Bo used his campaign for his own political ends, selectively attacking his opponents. A local businessman, now in hiding abroad, has said he suffered torture and extortion at the hands of Mr Bo's henchmen. The other policy was to pay homage to some aspects of Maoism---avouring state enterprises, for example, and reviving 'red songs', including some popular during the Cultural Revolution. The campaign showed breathtaking hypocrisy as well as forgiveness.
Welcome, too, is the little window the affair opens into the corrupt, fratricidal ways of party politics. Mr Bo's downfall was precipitated by the flight to an American consulate of Wang Lijun, his former police chief and right hand in the anti-mafia drive. The day before the sacking, Wen Jiabao, China's prime minister, had foreshadowed it with a rare public ticking-off for the Chongqing leadership at a press conference. In another presumed dig at Mr Bo, however, Mr Wen said something rather remarkable: that, without political reform China might suffer another tragedy, "like the Cultural Revolution". This seems preposterous: fast-growing, increasingly plural China is not on the brink of a similar outbreak of party- fanned mass hysteria like the one that gripped China in the late 1960s.
Mr Wen is right, however, to point out that the political system remains basically unaltered. It is still one in which the factional squabbles of a few men in Beijing are fought out across the whole nation. It is still one in which, as recently as 1989, a succession struggle was waged in blood on the streets of Beijing. It is still one in which the Communist Party has only managed one smooth transfer of leadership, its most recent transition in 2002. By comparison, America's laborious process looks rather attractive.
Complaints also surfaced about Bo's methods: According to some reports, Wang accused Bo of having a police official tortured and killed. Yang Jianli, a Chinese dissident who lives in Washington, told the Los Angeles Times it was not so much a conflict over Bo's Maoist ideology as his methods and personality that brought Bo down. "Bo showed too much ambition," Yang said. "Was Xi Jinping scared of him? I'm sure he was."
Bo Xilai's Downfall Exposes Divisions
Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times: "With the dismissal and investigation of Bo Xilai the notions of stability and consensus in China's secretive political system have taken a big and possibly lasting hit. Mr. Bo's spectacular fall from grace is being dissected in varying ways even before it is complete: a titanic power struggle between Mr. Bo's neo-Maoist left and the more liberal and market-oriented right; infighting among ruling cliques; a seizing of the moment by Mr. Bo's many highly motivated political enemies. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, April 6, 2012]
There is wide agreement among outsiders that Mr. Bo's downfall points to perhaps the most serious division in the party elite since the leadership upheavals during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. But to many, neither Mr. Bo nor the explanation of his collapse is so clear-cut. They see a collision between a Communist Party that prizes stability and secrecy in choosing its leaders, and a new kind of leader who set his own political agenda and thrived on public adulation.
In a Western system, Mr. Bo might be called a populist. In China, where lockstep unity is a foundation of the party's claim on power, he was a fearsome unknown. "The concern was not that Bo would change the delicate balance of power, but that he would lead the party completely out of control," said Cheng Li, an expert on China's elite at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "It's more than a power struggle. It's a corresponding interest to maintain the legitimacy of the Communist Party to survive." Wu Si, a liberal intellectual and editor based in Beijing, said in an interview: "What in actuality are the rules of transferring power at the highest levels now? It's not clear." "But Bo Xilai seemed to be heading down a new road," Mr. Wu said.
Mr. Bo is mostly identified as the charismatic darling of China's new left, the intellectuals and policy wonks who argue that China should use state power to assure social equality and enforce a culture of moral purity and nationalism. Mr. Bo's policies in Chongqing, from the mass singing of Mao-era songs to his pitiless anticorruption campaign, were conceived with the help of leftist theorists at the government-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.
Only Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who has cultivated an image as the caring grandfather figure of the national leadership, rivaled Mr. Bo's popularity. But while the modest Mr. Wen was always careful to show his loyalty to the party's central command, Mr. Bo often seemed to appeal to the disenfranchised masses who longed for someone to shake things up. "Bo Xilai was differentiating himself from other leaders in a very conspicuous way," Susan Shirk, a scholar of the Chinese elite at the University of California at San Diego, said in a recent interview. "His style of politicking was antithetical and threatening to a political oligarchy that was trying to keep the competition among themselves hidden from the general public."
Mr. Bo's ambition and abrasive style made some enemies in the elite, notably Mr. Wen. In a governing elite that makes big choices by consensus, experts say, Mr. Bo might well have vaulted onto the Standing Committee with the support of sympathizers, had Chongqing's police chief, Wang Lijun, not fled to the American Consulate in Chengdu. To incumbent leaders who worried about Mr. Bo's destabilizing impact, "the Wang Lijun case was just a godsend," said Huang Jing, an expert on elite politics and director of the Center on Asia and Globalization at the National University of Singapore. "It opened up a big hole, and the Bo Xilai camp, I believe, simply collapsed."
Shorn of their standard-bearer, China's leftists seem in at least temporary retreat. Censors this week shut down several Web sites supporting Mr. Bo for one month, including the well-known Utopia, which caters to the far left. Simultaneously, a weekly legal affairs magazine published an interview in which one of Utopia's founders claimed it had been 'hijacked' by extremists who promoted Mr. Bo's experiments in Chongqing.
More broadly, China's leadership has moved swiftly to paper over any sign of discord. Communist Party journals have showcased exhortations to promote stability and ignore malicious rumors --- a clear reaction to false reports of an impending coup that spread online last week. The newspaper The People's Liberation Army Daily minced no words. "Historical experience shows that whenever the party and country faces major issues, and whenever reform and development reach a crucial juncture, struggle in the ideological arena becomes even more intense and complex," it said. "We must pay close attention to the impact of the Internet, mobile phones and other new media on the thinking of officers and troops."
Enforced by the leadership, China's rigid status quo is returning in full force. Which is not precisely what China's reformers were hoping for. "On first look, I think it's a good thing," said Mr. Wu, the liberal intellectual, of the impact of Mr. Bo's ouster on party politics. "But on second look, I think, not necessarily." Even had he reached his peak, Bo would not have ranked in the standing committee's top half. Moreover, some of his purported backers did not share his leftist views. Elite politics in China is not simplistic and one-dimensional. Loyalties run on personal relationships as well as political philosophies, and coalitions wax and wane around specific issues.
Repercussions of Bo Xilai's Fall on China's Leadership and the Princelings
Willy Lam wrote in China Brief: "That Bo is now out of the running for the PBSC has afforded Hu an opportunity to revise the 'tripartite division of the spoils' formula that the CCP's disparate factions had been arrived at late last year. Under this scheme, the Communist Youth League (CYL) Faction and the Gang of Princelings would each get three PBSC seats, with the remaining three positions to be allotted to representatives from other cliques. It is understood that Hu wants the slot for which Bo was once deemed a shoo-in to go either to a CYL Faction member or a cadre with no obvious political affiliations. Before the Wang Lijun scandal, heavyweight CYL Faction candidates for the PBSC included Executive Vice Premier Li Keqiang, Director of the CCP Organization Department Li Yuanchao and Guangdong Party Secretary Wang Yang, while the three front-running princelings were Xi Jinping, Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Bo Xilai. One possibility is that Hu may insinuate Inner Mongolia Party Secretary Hu Chunhua, age 48, into the PBSC. A top member of the Six-Generation leadership---a reference to cadres born in the 1960s---Hu, who is not related to the president, is also a former party secretary of the CYL. However, it also is possible that the position may be awarded to Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu. While Meng lacks Politburo status, he has won the top leadership's praise for cracking down hard on dissidents as well as 'splittists' in the Tibet and Xinjiang regions. [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief (Jamestown Foundation), March 2, 2012]
Given that the Gang of Princelings is perhaps the most well-known 'interest bloc' in China, there is a possibility that Hu and Wen are using these liberalization-minded articles to cast indirect aspersions at the sons and daughters of privilege for political advantage. At the very least, Vice President Xi, who enthusiastically endorsed Bo's changhong movement during a visit to Chongqing in early 2010, may be in the line of fire. Almost as much as Bo, Xi has the past few years underscored the imperative of heeding the Great Helmsman's instructions. For example, at the opening of a Central Party School (CPS) semester last year, Xi, who is also CPS President, urged his students to pay attention to the Marxist canon," especially Mao's classic writings. "Cadres must seriously study Marxist theory to ensure that they can maintain political resoluteness," he said. Xi added that since Marxist classics were voluminous, "we should focus on the salient points, and concentrate on studying the quintessence---particularly the important works of Mao Zedong."
Before the Wang Lijun episode erupted, a number of illustrious party liberals such as Hu Deping, the son of the liberal party chief Hu Yaobang, had tried to resuscitate ideological and political reform through holding a series of salons and seminars. The theoretical possibility exists that the dominant CYL Faction might seek the help of these remnant liberals in consolidating their grip on post-18th Congress elite politics. It is, however, instructive to note that the powers that be in Zhongnanhai have a long tradition of using radical reformists and genuine liberals as pawns in political intrigues and then abandoning them once the power struggle is over. A classic example is what took place in 1979 and 1980, when Deng Xiaoping encouraged dissidents such as Wei Jingsheng to attack the party's unrepentant followers of Chairman Mao. Once he has been ensconced in power, however, Deng closed down the Democracy Wall and threw Wei and a number of his close comrades into jail. Irrespective of the outcome of the on-going contention between the CYL Faction and the Gang of Princelings, the chances that the tattered threads of political liberalization may be picked up again seem abysmally low.
Hu Jintao Draws Blood with the Wang Lijun Scandal
Willy Lam wrote in China Brief: "After apparently engineering the contretemps that have hit Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, President Hu Jintao is putting additional pressure on other members of the Gang of Princelings---the political faction composed of senior cadres ---offspring. The political fortunes of Bo have nosedived following the recent detention of his key protégé, Wang Lijun, on alleged'economic crimes." Regardless of the veracity about the speculation that the 62-year-old princeling offered to resign from the Politburo, Bo's chances for making the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) at the 18th Party Congress later this year seem over...Bo reportedly wrote a letter of self-criticism to the PBSC in which he blamed himself for failing to detect the alleged corruption and other misdemeanors of Wang. [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief (Jamestown Foundation), March 2, 2012]
Political observers in Beijing are closely watching two related developments. The first is which senior cadre will likely acquire the PBSC seat which Bo seemed to have a high chance of filling. The second and perhaps more significant issue is the fate of the so-called 'Chongqing Model' associated with Bo, particularly the large-scale resuscitation of Maoist values and culture that is symbolized by the popular 'singing red songs' (changhong) campaign. Since the Wang Lijun saga, however, the mainstream media has been replete with commentaries advocating ideological and political liberalization. Particularly given that other pedigreed cadres such as Vice President Xi Jinping also have taken part in the changhong movement, are these pro-reformist articles yet another weapon used by President Hu and his associates to lay into the Gang of Princelings? Are there also possibilities that the recent outburst of reformist sentiments will persist beyond the 18th CCP Congress?
That Hu had a hand in bringing down Wang---and in the process crippling Bo's promotion prospects---was attested to by reports in Beijing that in 2011 he asked the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI) to investigate corruption-related offences allegedly committed by Wang and his colleagues in Tieling... Wang's replacement as Chongqing Police Chief is 42-year-old Guan Haixiang, who spent 15 years in the Communist Youth League's regional and central offices but has no experience in police or political-legal system (zhengfa xitong) work.
Bo Xilai's Fall and the New Leftists
Wu Zhong wrote in the Asia Times, Beijing's dismissal of Bo Xilai as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary of Chongqing municipality has upset the so-called new leftists and his supporters who had regarded his experiment in the southwestern Chinese city to return to some form of socialism as a template to shape the country if Bo could grab more power. The new leftists, a small minority in a country in which the majority of people support the ongoing opening-up policy despite the problems it has brought about in the past three decades, are fighting back. [Source: Wu Zhong, Asia Times, March 28, 2012]
Immediately after the announcement of Bo's dismissal, Professor Kong Qingdong of Peking University, a die-hard new leftist, denounced the move - in a talk show on popular Internet-protocol television v1.cn - as a "counter-revolutionary coup" and called for people to step forward to fight against a "dark force".
Another member from the new leftist camp and a Bo supporter is Sima Nan, who wrote a poem on his weibo or mini-blog likening Bo to a "staunch pillar" in southwestern China and saying that his sacking was a "sad setback for the Chinese nation". Apparently in an effort to prevent more such messages from spreading on the Internet, the flagship website of the new leftists, Utopia, was blocked for several days. When it was allowed to reopen after some "technical problems were solved", its homepage was left blank as a way of protest (implying that it was not allowed to talk freely).
Communist Party Makes Case That Bo Is Not Being Ousted for Political Reasons
Keith B. Richburg wrote in the Washington Post, "Given his popular following, Chinese authorities would want any punishment of Bo to be accepted as legitimate. And a corruption trial, in a system in which graft has become so widespread, is unlikely to pass public scrutiny. [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, June 15, 2012]
'since the Bo scandal erupted, China's Communist rulers have been trying to allay widespread suspicions that he was removed for political reasons ahead of this year's leadership change. "This criminal case shall not be interpreted as a political struggle," said an official editorial by Xinhua, the state news agency. "China is a socialist country based on the rule of law, and the sanctity and authority of that law shall not be trampled upon." [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post July 19, 2012]
"One way for officials to show they really are concerned with the law, critics say, would be to reopen all the criminal cases in Chongqing under Bo's nearly five-year tenure, and not just investigate the case of the deceased Briton. So far, however, China's Communist authorities have shown no desire to revisit the anti-crime campaign and the cases of thousands still imprisoned. [Ibid]
"On April 17, another lawyer, Liu Yang, published an open letter online, calling for lawyers to join him in reviewing criminal cases in Chongqing. "I received many calls for help, and I felt we needed to do something for the country, the people and for Chongqing, too," Liu wrote. He said 26 lawyers had offered to join him. But Liu said he was called before the Beijing Bureau of Legal Affairs and told to desist. After his morning meeting, he declined to answer any more questions, saying the topic had become too 'sensitive." [Ibid]
Effect of the Bo Xilai Scandal on the Chinese Communist Party
Some analysts have said the Bo Xilai scandal has presented the Communist Party leadership with its biggest challenge since the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre in 1989. Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times: "The scandal that brought down Bo Xilai hs wife obviously have hurt his supporters but in the view of many they have also damaged the standing of President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and other Chinese leaders who purged Bo. In the view of some analysts and party insiders, that same scandal has raised the notion of high-level misconduct among China's elite to a level that some say could have far-reaching and unpleasant implications for stability. It could cast a long shadow over one of the party's linchpins: the notion that a handful of all-powerful officials and retired elders are better qualified to pick their successors than are ordinary citizens. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, April 12, 2012]
"I think that this could have a deep and delegitimizing impact on China, not now, but in the long run," Joseph Fewsmith, a Boston University scholar of elite Chinese politics, told the New York Times of the Bo family scandals. "This has got to be shocking to the people of China. I think the party has lost a lot of credibility." [Ibid]
"How revelations of murder and potential cover-up in the party's highest echelons will resonate is unclear, Wines wrote. Beyond Mr. Bo's destruction, however, lies a larger question of how China's leaders address a growing perception that this is a society rotting from the top, an impression that the spectacular Bo scandal can only reinforce. [Ibid]
"The state-controlled capitalism pushed by Chinese leaders has created an economic colossus, but at the cost of a steadily widening gap in both wealth and privilege between the rich and poor. Mr. Bo, though generally a supporter of the Chinese economic model, sought to build a political base made of ardent socialists by emphasizing the need to ensure more social welfare for the middle and lower classes. Citizens are both boiling over about and wearily resigned to corruption and impunity among their elites, a ubiquitous topic on the microblogs that increasingly are the national water cooler. [Ibid]
"High-level corruption within China is not a rarity. In the last 17 years, the party bosses of Beijing and Shanghai have been removed and later imprisoned for graft. Internal cables from the United States Embassy in Beijing, released last year by the WikiLeaks project, detailed allegations of favoritism at the government's highest levels. In the Politburo's all-powerful Standing Committee, for example, they suggest that Mr. Bo's foremost patron Zhou Yongkang is tied to China's oil industry, that Jia Qinglin, the nation's fourth-ranked leader, is linked to Beijing real estate and the wife of the prime minister, Mr. Wen, is a major figure in gem trading. Mr. Bo's downfall has far broader resonance, not only because it involves a leading national figure and murder --- and murder of a foreigner, no less --- but because such scandals can no longer be confined, even in China's walled-off cyberworld. [Ibid]
"The Communist Party is doing all it can to cast the case in the opposite light: that the party should be congratulated for confronting accusations of murder against the spouse of a Politburo member and meting out justice with an even hand. Chinese officials said this week that they had closed 42 Web sites and censored 210,000 online comments since mid-March in a campaign to suppress'Internet-based rumors," a principal target of an online crackdown related to the Bo family scandal. But in a wired world, even ordinary Chinese increasingly know better. [Ibid]
'some experts, like Mr. Fewsmith of Boston University, compare the Bo scandal to the case of Lin Biao, a hero of the Communist revolution whom Mao Zedong once tapped as his successor, but who died in a suspicious plane crash after a falling-out. Mr. Lin's death, he said, was a tipping point for many Chinese who decided that Mao's aim was not to better people's lives, but to gain still more power. The Bo affair presents China's leadership with a crucial and similar choice between burying serious political problems and settling them openly, said Cheng Li, a scholar of China's leadership at the Brookings Institution. "It's not about ideological disputes. It's not about Bo's personality or his ego or his ambition. It's about the very legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party," Mr. Li said. "People will ask, "How can it be possible that a soon-to-be top leader of the country could be involved in a murder?" How the system could produce this kind of crisis is a wake-up call." [Ibid]
Why the Bo Xilai Case Threatens the Communist Party
Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian, "Analysts say Bo's case presents top leaders with a dilemma. If they reveal only limited evidence against him, it may look as if a popular figure has been removed for political reasons. If the accusations are too shocking, people will ask how he could have become so powerful --- and what other senior leaders may have been doing. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, April 15, 2012]
A Xinhua piece warned: "In some places, there are some practices in which power and personal favour are put above the law In some places, there are top officials making decisions without seeking others' opinions and thus violating the principle of democratic centralism. The spouses and children of some cadres have taken advantage of their power to seek personal gains." In other cases officials "choose the road of abusing power for personal gains" because they cannot resist the temptations of the market economy, it said, adding that the party never tolerated breaches of discipline or the law, whoever was responsible. [Ibid]
"I think this is a very serious legitimacy crisis for the party," said Patricia Thornton, lecturer in politics of China at the University of Oxford. "As more details of the case come out, I think it will be very, very difficult to sustain that." The more thorough and far-reaching the investigation, the more it would expose the ties of the party elite to powerful commercial interests, she said. [Ibid]
"Bo's case has been particularly damaging, not merely because of his position but because he had significant grassroots support and a reputation as someone concerned about inequality, corruption, and crime, she added. The South China Morning Post reported that five inspection teams from the Central Military Commission are investigating links between Bo and senior officers in the Chengdu military region. He is well known for his ties to the army. [Ibid]
"Unwavering Public Support" During the Bo Xilai Scandal
Duncan Hewitt wrote in China Beat, "It was just like old times---in many of China's major newspapers, a prominently displayed half-page story headlined: "Officials and citizens all across the country express unwavering support for central party leadership's decision." It followed hot on the heels of the previous day's People's Daily headline: "Resolutely support the party's correct decision," which appeared on many front pages. In the wake of the stunning news that Bo Xilai had been suspended from the ruling Politburo, and his wife arrested on suspicion of being involved in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, the Chinese Communist Party was in full damage limitation mode. And as so often in a time of crisis, it reverted to tried and trusted methods---in this case wheeling out headlines and slogans straight out of the Mao-era propaganda lexicon. Even the well-known liberal Guangzhou newspaper the Southern Weekend had obviously been ordered to fill its front page with them---though it did manage to squeeze in a recent quote from Premier Wen Jiabao calling for continuing reforms. And by the end of the week, state media had begun pushing other default buttons, with an editorial in the often nationalistic Global Timesnewspaper accusing the western media of trying to use the affair to split the Communist Party. [Source: Duncan Hewitt China Beat, April 17, 2012]
But of course times have, in fact, changed. "These headlines are like something out of the Cultural Revolution," said one very modern urban intellectual, shaking his head in disbelief. And while newspaper editors have apparently been summoned to meetings to ensure they follow the correct line...Th government's heavy-handed, traditional-style management of the media---and Internet---during this crisis has made some wonder just how far the Communist Party has moved from its Mao-era traditions. Well-known liberal scholar Liu Junning last week wrote a post warning that the greatest threat to social stability was in fact autocratic rule---an apparent reference to the Party itself. [Ibid]
"It's all added to the sense that, for all its talk of embracing'public scrutiny --- via the Internet, the Party is struggling to keep up with the pace of social change in China. It recently revived a campaign to promote the example of Lei Feng, an early 1960s' soldier promoted by Chairman Mao as a model of altruism---and a throwback to the days when people in China really did 'express unwavering support' for the decisions of the party central committee. [Ibid]
In Chongqing, Bo Xilai's Legacy and Popularity Endure
Keith B. Richburg wrote in the Washington Post: "Though ousted, Bo enjoys significant residual support in Chongqing, where he was the party chief and was credited with improving ordinary people's living standards. Bo also became a hero among China's 'new leftists' for his advocacy of a more equitable distribution of wealth and his'red revival' campaign, including organized singing pageants of Mao-era revolutionary songs. [Source: Keith B. Richburg, June 15, May 22, 2012]
"Longtime residents hail what they describe as the transformation during his four-year reign of what not long ago was a provincial, insular, inland city. For the most part, a new regional leader appointed by the central authorities appears to be moving cautiously for fear of antagonizing Bo's many backers. "Before Bo came, Chongqing was like a little girl. After Bo, we grew into a young beauty," said Ding Rui, a 43-year-old tourist-van driver and Chongqing native. In January, Ding, his wife and their daughter moved into a brand-new, government-subsidized, 785-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment --- thanks to one of Bo's pet projects: to build housing for low-income residents. "He made a lot of dramatic changes that ordinary people can feel," Ding said. "As for the new party secretary, we don't even know what he looks like." [Source: Keith B. Richburg, May 22, 2012]
"The new regional leader, Zhang Dejiang, has signaled that the private sector might gain more official support after being largely neglected under Bo's 'red revival' approach to communism. But Zhang has shown no sign of rolling back the big-ticket construction projects and social welfare programs that made Bo something of a local hero. [Ibid]
"In Chongqing, there is a sense of shock that Bo has been fired and embroiled in scandal. "I was astonished to hear what happened," said a 70-year-old retired man who did not want to be quoted by name. "Bo did a lot to impress ordinary people. He did a lot of good things here." "We should look at Bo Xilai objectively. He did a lot of good things," said another retired dock worker, 80, adding that he was a longtime member of the Communist Party. He cited the improved traffic because of the city's broadened highways, the crackdown on crime that has made the streets safer at night and a 'green' campaign to plant more trees in this high-rise urban area. "If he played a role on his wife's case," the man said, "then the government will punish him." [Ibid]
"Zhang, the new party chief, has discontinued the pageants. In a speech last month, he mentioned the need to'continuously strengthen the private economy." But the retirees still gather in the square each day, and they still like to sing the old songs, such as 'Red Star Shines," although they concede that they sing fewer communist anthems now that Bo is gone. [Ibid]
"Other residents, particularly from Chongqing's remote and rural areas, said they liked Bo for his emphasis on the poor. Under Bo, the government began distributing free cartons of milk to elementary school students in poorer areas. "I think Bo set an example in caring about people's lives, like improving security, and giving insurance to old people," said Lan Zhongwei, 49, who ekes out a living hauling heavy cartons for shops and customers on his handcart. Lan described Bo as one of the few Communist Party officials who cared about people like him. "I feel sorry for him," Lan said. [Ibid]
"Faced with Bo's residual popularity, authorities seem to be moving gingerly, particularly in rolling back his welfare policies and expansive public housing plans. Chongqing's mayor, Huang Qifan, who was close to Bo, has kept his position, and he and other officials have sought to assure foreign investors that they are still welcome in Chongqing. "Because of the political change, it seems that these days investors hesitate a little," said Richard Cao, chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce for Southwest China. "But this is understandable. Investors hesitate when faced with change." [Ibid]
"On the streets, Bo and his policies still garner support. "Of course, we ordinary people think he's a good leader," said Liu Bin, a middle-aged taxi driver who recalled Bo's role in resolving a drivers strike that won a reduction in fees paid to the taxi company.Liu mused about the possibility of getting ordinary people to show their support for Bo, saying that if local people "all got together and appealed for Bo, do you think we might help him somewhat?" He added quickly: "I'm just dreaming. Who would dare organize such an event in China?"
Consequences of Bo's Fall on China as a Whole
Ian Buruma wrote in Project Syndicate: " Since Bo presented himself as a populist critic of modern Chinese capitalism and an authoritarian promoter of Maoist ethics, his natural enemies inside the Party leadership would seem to be the more 'liberal' bosses, who favor free-market capitalism and perhaps even some political reforms. The current premier, Wen Jiabao, would seem to be this faction's leader. He has made speeches about the need for democratic reform, and has been openly critical of Bo. Chen asked him to investigate abuses against him and his family. [Source: Ian Buruma, Project Syndicate, May 4, 2012]
So, could the fall of Bo lead to a more open society, less hostile to dissident voices? It is possible that Chinese Communists who favor more economic liberalism would also be more receptive to a more open society. But the opposite could also be true: the wider the disparities in wealth, and the more people protest against economic inequality, the more the regime will crack down on dissidents. Such repression is not meant to protect communism, let alone what little is left of Maoism. On the contrary, it is meant to protect the Chinese Communist Party's brand of capitalism. That may be why Bo had to be toppled, and certainly why dissidents like Chen, as well as his family, have to suffer so much that refuge in a foreign embassy is their final, desperate option. [Ibid]
"Kenneth Lieberthal, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution and perhaps America's most respected Sinologist, told David Ignatius of the Washington, three factors that make the current moment so delicate: 1) The Chinese leadership is rarely so clearly divided. The party rulers prize consensus and believe that it's a key factor in maintaining stability. They learned long ago that if they don't hang together, they risk all hanging separately. That essential consensus is now in question. [Source: David Ignatius, Washington Post, May 18, 2012]
"2) The Chinese middle class, whose rise has buttressed political stability, appears disgruntled. Social media in China are alive with complaints about product safety, food safety, air quality (described by U.S. officials as'crazy bad') and widespread corruption. A crucial social force is increasingly disaffected, and the spread of new social media amplifies this discontent. [Ibid]
"3) The Chinese elite worry about a huge migrant labor force, estimated at 300 million, who live mostly on the margins of the rich coastal cities. They represent a potential source of instability because they are denied full urban status, with its attendant benefits. If there's one thing China is good at, it's managing and suppressing internal dissent, so you'd have to bet that Beijing will keep the lid on. But it's getting harder. [Ibid]
"These problems would be worrying even if the Chinese economy were still in its mega-boom phase. But economic growth is cooling. China's imports and exports have both slowed over the past year, and the country's central bank just lowered its reserve requirements, for the third time in six months, to encourage banks to lend more money. [Ibid]
Bo Xilai Affair and the Future of China
Eric X. Li wrote in the South China Morning Post: "Two extreme ideological forces have been dismayed by China's tremendous achievements since Deng Xiaoping launched his reform. On one side are the leftists who believe China has lost its socialist way in its head-long pursuit of market economics and want the nation to go back to its past of a completely state-owned economy and dogmatic Leninist rule. On the other side are the liberals who just cannot live with the fact that China is succeeding without multi-party elections and a Bill of Rights. The noises they are amplifying seem, at the moment, to be deflecting our attention from the extraordinary progress China has gained in the last three decades and the underlying consensus that made it possible. [Source: Eric X. Li, Shanghai venture capitalist, South China Morning Post on April 3rd, 2012, April 4, 2012, ]
The leftists are in tune with the general sentiments of the Chinese public in its desire for political stability and equality. An abundance of polling data show the Communist Party enjoys a high level of support among the Chinese people for its remarkable performance. Its meritocratic governance has earned substantial admiration for its leadership. During the much reported protests in Wukan, the highest banner held up by the rebelling villagers read, "Long Live the Chinese Communist Party!'
Yet, a virulent strand of populism infests their thinking. They seem to be completely blind to the unprecedented accomplishments of market-oriented reforms in recent decades and blame the byproducts of rapid economic development, such as corruption and the wealth gap, on the market economy itself. It matters little to them that even the worst-off in today's China are better off than they were a generation ago. The leftists have erroneously interpreted Bo's policies in Chongqing as a wholesale return to the Leninist past. His apparent downfall has enraged them as they see it as an ultimate betrayal by the Party.
The liberals are no less pathetic. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, they have advocated the idea that no country can succeed without multi-party elections and human rights. Year after year, they have predicted the imminent collapse of China. Year after year, China has continued to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, its economy vaulting to the second largest in the world and its people living in prosperity unprecedented in history.
The economists within the liberal ranks are in sync with the reality that market economics forms the underlying foundation of China's success. Yet, their economic position has been hijacked by political ideologues who insist on linking market economics to the political system of liberal democracy. They live in an ideological vacuum in which the market cannot function without voting. They are completely blind to the fact that a most vibrant market economy has been growing leaps and bounds under one-party rule. These liberals are pre-maturely celebrating Bo's removal as a precursor to a liberal democratic color revolution or at least a "peaceful evolution" prescribed by John Foster Dulles for the former Soviet Union. Through their euphoric celebrations of Bo's demise, it seems that they are seeking to will their wish into reality.
On the eve of Bo's removal, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao spoke to reporters at the end of the National People's Congress. With the mentioning of Cultural Revolution and political reform, his words stirred up sensational eruptions in international newspapers and online forums. But of course, such speculation is widely off the mark. Any sensible person could see that, under the current political structure and social conditions, it is nearly impossible for China to return to the Cultural Revolution. The Prime Minister's reference to it actually reflects a widely shared fear of chaos resulting from a potential subversion of the current system. The Chinese term is zheteng -- ideological struggles that risk overturning the ship. As to political reform, the Prime Minister said nothing of the sort. He pointedly said "political structural reform". The word structural, in the lexicon of Chinese politics, means reforms that make the current system work better, not fundamentally changing it.
In this highly political season, an unexpected political drama has intensified an ideological confrontation between two extreme ends of China's political spectrum. Their voices are loud. Will their tempest be allowed to disrupt China's path? If so, catastrophic consequences would ensue: another Cultural Revolution could indeed be possible with disastrous chaos worse than those that befell post-Soviet Russia. In such a scenario China, instead of being the growth engine of the world, will become its greatest burden. But this needs not be. In all likelihood, talks of a pending political implosion in Beijing are greatly exaggerated. The quiet and steady currents of China's mainstream, along with the common sense of its leadership, will almost certainly continue to guide China on its path of pragmatism and moderation. The tide of history favors the large center. And the tide of history shall prevail.
Better Off with Bo Xilai Gone?
Xujun Eberlein, a former Chongqing resident and author of a book about the Great Famine after the Great Leap Forward, wrote in China Beat: Later the international media changed its tune and began to paint a more sympathetic image of Bo than previously reported, by focusing on Chinese people's love of him. Reuters, for example, has a report titled'In China's Chongqing, dismay over downfall of Bo Xilai that quotes a working 'stick man' ( a porter-for-hire) who praises Bo as 'a good man' that'made life a lot better here." The Telegraph's Malcolm Moore (the intrepid reporter who brought Wukan to the world's attention) even went so far as to call Bo 'one of the most loved' officials in China. Those reports, however, can be misleading if not balanced by a variety of opinions or careful analysis. [Source: Xujun Eberlein, China Beat, March 20, 2012]
China is the most populous country in the world, and Chongqing is the most populous metropolis in China. With that many people, one can find any and all kinds of opinions among them, certainly including the ones quoted above. I have been talking to fellow townsfolk throughout Bo's tenure in Chongqing, both in person during my visits and via phone and email. One thing I notice---though this is not to claim that my sample set is statistically significant — is that the more access to information people have, the more negative their opinions of Bo are. (The 'stick man' quoted by the Reuters report above provides collateral evidence to my observation. he 'said he could not read and did not watch television.") Age also mattered, with people who had experienced the Cultural Revolution tending to be more suspicious of Bo.
Particularly problematic is the disappearance of a Chongqing delegation member, Zhang Mingyu. Zhang was taken by force from his Beijing residence byChongqing police, believed to have been sent by Bo Xilai. Zhang's lawyer tried to reach out to media and netizens through microblogs. I saw reports of Zhang's disappearance on March 7th and tweeted about it with a bit of shock ---this was happening during the NPC, which is supposed to be China's highest legislative meeting. Would anybody inquire about a violation of the basic rights of its own delegates? A few foreign media outlets reported Zhang's lawyer's calls for help on March 7th. After that, Zhang, and his name, were no longer seen anywhere, as if he had vanished or never even existed. For a week, I searched for his name on the Chinese internet every day. Nothing.
Until March 15th, that is, the day Bo Xilai's removal was announced. A friend who knew I was concerned with Zhang's fate sent me a link to a VOC report on Zhang's release. He was lucky. Another Chongqing citizen, Fang Hong, disappeared two years ago after calling Bo Xilai 'shit," and was never seen or heard from again. It is thinking about the helplessness of individuals like those that brings fear to me. I write things like this essay: will I disappear one day when visiting Chongqing?
Bo's departure has made me feel safer. I have seen Bo Xilai characterized as a Western-style politician , which I find amusing. Bo is a product of China's political system, pure and simple. His education was Mao worship and he has not transcended it; his ideas are all out of old playbooks; his suffering in his youth---years of unjust imprisonment during the Cultural Revolution'seems to have only made him more cynical and cruel.
China Party Enshrines Tighter Oversight after Bo Xilai Scandal
After the November 2012 leadership changes were announced, John Ruwitch and Michael Martina of Reuters wrote, " China's ruling Communist Party amended its guiding charter on Wednesday to tighten oversight of officials, a move reflecting the depth of concern about abuse of power in the wake of a scandal involving former political heavyweight Bo Xilai. The closing session of the five-yearly party congress also changed the party constitution to explicitly endorse reform and opening as "the path to a stronger China" and made a nod towards growing environmental problems by promoting "ecological progress" as part of the party's development strategy. [Source: John Ruwitch and Michael Martina, Reuters, November 15, 2012]
"The party should attach greater importance to conducting oversight of cadres," the amendment said. This would help improve "public trust in the selection and appointment of party cadres" and encourage top officials to be better examples, said a statement from the congress." But'witthout an independent judiciary, efforts to fight graft, a key driver of social unrest in the world's second-largest economy, will almost certainly falter, and the control-obsessed party has shown no sign of embarking on this reform. [Ibid]
The charter also added outgoing party chief Hu Jintao's theory promoting equitable and sustainable development alongside Marxism-Leninism, "Mao Zedong Thought", "Deng Xiaoping Theory" and Hu's immediate predecessor Jiang Zemin's "Three Represents" theory as a guiding ideology, cementing Hu's legacy. In 2002, Jiang's "Three Represents" was written into the party charter, stamping his imprint by opening the door to private entrepreneurs entering the party. [Ibid]
New Chongqing Leader
In November 2012, the BBC reported: " China has appointed a new Communist Party chief in Chongqing, the city once led by disgraced politician Bo Xilai. Sun Zhengcai, 49, will take over from outgoing chief Zhang Dejiang, who was promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee, Xinhua news agency said. Mr Zhang replaced Bo Xilai in March, as investigations into his case began. Mr Bo is now facing trial on a raft of charges. His wife Gu Kailai was jailed in August for the murder of a British businessman. Mr Sun is a newly-appointed member of the 25-strong politburo. [Source: BBC November 20, 2012]
Sun previously served as party secretary in Jilin province and was agriculture minister from 2006-2009. A week earlier Sun was promoted to the Politburo, making home one the youngest members of that body and him into contention for one of China's top leadership positions in coming years.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated December 2013