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The end of the Chongqing Model? Bo Xilai’s rapid fall from office examined.
March 26, 2012 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Bo Xilai, former Party Secretary of Chongqing and current Politburo member, was recently sacked by Chinese leadership. He is well known for his economic success at growing Chongqing, and his flamboyant leadership style which included the revival of “Red Culture”[previously].

Prior to removal from office, Bo Xilai was considered a top contender for a spot on the Standing Committee of the Politburo, a nine person body that is effectively the ruling power in China.

Bo Xilai’s fall from power has been rapid. On February 8, Wang Lijun, Chongqing’s police chief, fled to a nearby US consulate, possibly to seek asylum. On March 15, Bo Xilai was removed from office. Soon after, allegations of a corruption scandal emerged.

Today, the New York Times reports that Wang Lijun’s flight to the U.S. Consulate may have had darker undertones. Lijun appears to have been investigating the suspicious death of a British businessman, who at the time was involved in a commercial dispute with Bo Xilai’s wife.

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Other interesting and informative articles:

Where Bo Goes, The Economist (discussing the history of Chinese leadership purges since 1989).

One or Two Chinese Models, European Council on Foreign Relations (an explanation of Bo Xilai’s successful economic model and its competition).

How the playboy antics of Chinese politician's Harrow-educated son have fuelled rumours of a coup in Beijing, Daily Mail Online (Gossip about the party-chief’s party-boy son, Bo GuaGua, and his wild lifestyle in England).
posted by HabeasCorpus (20 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm shocked, shocked, that an admirer (sincere or not) of the Cultural Revolution is corrupt.
posted by kmz at 8:31 AM on March 26, 2012


Bo Xilai’s fall from power has been rapid.
Actually, Bo's fall from power has been anything but rapid. He stepped on too many toes as minister of commerce, so was sent to Chongqing in 2007 to keep him out of trouble. Upon arrival, he had the police chief arrested and executed for corruption. It is worth nothing that the police chief was the right hand man of the previous party chief of Chongqing, and both the previous party chief and Bo came from the same political faction.

Bo has been earning bad karma for a long time.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:36 AM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great post.

The last link convinces me that the entire world ought to breathe a sigh of relief now that the career of Mr. Bo has been nipped in the bud.
posted by jamjam at 8:43 AM on March 26, 2012


I found the two Danwei posts about this kind of interesting. And the Guardian had a decent rundown of events and its implications as well.
posted by gemmy at 8:56 AM on March 26, 2012


Fascinating post.

How the playboy antics of Chinese politician's Harrow-educated son have fuelled rumours of a coup in Beijing, Daily Mail Online (Gossip about the party-chief’s party-boy son, Bo GuaGua, and his wild lifestyle in England).

Normally I'd take any gossip in the Daily Mail with a massive pinch of salt, but as a number of friends were at college with him the stories of exorbitant spending and academic problems ring true. But I discount the pictures as the usual university student antics.
posted by emergent at 9:53 AM on March 26, 2012


To give you and indication of how idiotic and uninformed western reporting of China (or any other non-English-speaking country such as Japan etc) can be, here's the Globe and Mail's China correspondent Mark MacKinnon reporting on rumours on whether Bo Xilai's downfall is part of a coup. Or something.

The comments to the Globe and Mail piece are pretty entertaining.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:41 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought the Wall Street Journal had an interesting take on this:
As strange as it might seem to outsiders, to the party leadership the Cultural Revolution is synonymous with democracy, both posing threats to their power. Instead of Marxist ideology, the party emphasizes its record of maintaining stability, fostering economic development and making China a strong state to keep the "masses" loyal.

When Mr. Wen refers to the need for "political reform," he avoids the Chinese phrase zhidu gaige, meaning reform of a system, and instead uses tizhi gaige, which means structural reform, i.e., refinement of the party apparatus. As Deng Xiaoping turned against political liberalization in the 1980s, he switched from the former term to the latter.

The question today is whether the risk-averse leaders who rise to the top under such a system can handle the challenges ahead. As a recent World Bank report suggested, the low-hanging fruit of economic reform has been picked and the next stage will require the political will to pare back the party's control over the commanding heights of the economy. Meanwhile, grass-roots demands for greater public participation in government are growing.

The irony is that Mr. Bo might have proved to be a real politician, capable of forging a public consensus for change. While the Communist Party had good reason to fear him, it may regret casting him out of the fold. There is growing recognition that a closed leadership can't cope with the complexity of an open market economy and an assertive public.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:33 AM on March 26, 2012


Wrong kind of coup. This is the kind of coup where unexpected points are scored, not where the dictator is deposed and replaced with a shiny new dictator.

The stuff that is going on now is essentially a power struggle to determine how power will be shared when Hu's term ends this year and he steps down. Both factions control significant portions of the armed forces and various police branches, so each can bring a lot of actual firepower to the table, but you don't really do that.

Since Hu has to, and is expecting to, step down at the end of the year, an actual banana republic style coup is unlikely and completely unnecessary. Instead, the whole Bo thing is blowing up, and it looks like both factions are working together to get rid of the asshat. This is a coup for Hu's faction because Bo was expected to be named to the highest level committee. Taking Bo out of the picture opens the door for someone from Hu's faction to fill the spot.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:38 AM on March 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


The question today is whether the risk-averse leaders who rise to the top under such a system can handle the challenges ahead. As a recent World Bank report suggested, the low-hanging fruit of economic reform has been picked and the next stage will require the political will to pare back the party's control over the commanding heights of the economy. Meanwhile, grass-roots demands for greater public participation in government are growing.
What I don't get is why so many western speculators just assume that the "Next Stage" of China's political metamorphosis must be to become more like the west and, essentially, allow wall street and the big banks and mega-wealthy - or at at least their Chinese analogs more control of society?

I love how it's framed as a issue of "Political Will", i.e. the "Political Will" to cede power to people like them.

Kind of ridiculous, IMO.

What is the goal of Chinese leadership? What is their vision for the future of China? Is it to stay in power? Attain some kind of Utopian ideal? (the harmonious society?)

I think one thing we can be sure of is that they don't really give a crap what western capitalists think they should be doing. Or what the Chinese people think beyond whether or not they are pissed off enough to start a revolution.
posted by delmoi at 11:50 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is the goal of Chinese leadership? What is their vision for the future of China? Is it to stay in power?

I've been rereading Fire in the Lake, which, while it deals primarily with "The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam", has actually provided some interesting insights, at least for me, into Japanese culture (which, as perhaps some folks in this thread may know, is one of my obsessions).

Anyway, at risk of "orientalizing" this discussion of Japan, Fire in the Lake does dwell a lot on the concept of the "mandate of heaven", that is, the ability to read the signs and chart a course towards prosperity and stability. There is an answer to every question, and the leadership has mastered the answers. History is cyclical, rather than linear and open-ended, and at some point "revolution" occurs. So

I guess the answer is, preserve the status quo. In more practical terms, I would see China trying to deal with environmental issues as job #1.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:48 PM on March 26, 2012


Related, tradecraft?
posted by chavenet at 1:11 PM on March 26, 2012


A better way to show that western media has no clue going on is to mention that no one seems to be reporting that searches for Falun Gong and Tiananmen Square are no longer being censored on Chinese search engines and microblogging services. This could be because the Chinese government is ready to start talking about these things, or it could be a distracting from Something Else (Bo, the "coup", or the 18th Congress in general).
posted by b1tr0t at 1:39 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The irony is that Mr. Bo might have proved to be a real politician, capable of forging a public consensus for change. While the Communist Party had good reason to fear him, it may regret casting him out of the fold. There is growing recognition that a closed leadership can't cope with the complexity of an open market economy and an assertive public.

So typical of the WSJ under Murdoch to long for the Strong Man, the boot in the face, and to ignore, in deploring a "closed leadership", the inconvenient truth that Mr. Bo is the son of one of Mao's inner circle, while his opponents "current Chinese president Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao worked their way up from humble backgrounds and share some of the public resentment towards China’s ‘princelings’" and that Bo would represent the closing and locking of a door to leadership which had in fact cracked noticeably open.
posted by jamjam at 1:45 PM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


As strange as it might seem to outsiders, to the party leadership the Cultural Revolution is synonymous with democracy

I can see how they got there, but that seems to me a somewhat orthogonal reading. The CCP, in my opinion, doesn't view the Cultural Revolution as synonymous with democracy as we in the West think of it, at the very least. Perhaps - perhaps a better analogy would be democracy in a kind of French revolution-y kind of sense. Maybe.

But really, I think it's more thought of as a kind of reactionary, populist "democracy"; institutional encouragement for unbridled, emotional excess; dangerous expression by the public.

To the best of my knowledge, it's certainly not viewed as a more democratic time - and nor was it. My impression has always been that the leadership is afraid of the legacy of the Cultural Revolution for two reasons: 1) It involved ceding a measure of control away from the committee to powerful individuals and the public, a license to misbehave as it were and 2) because it nearly cost the CCP control of China, moreso than Tienanmen did in reality.

As for the rest of the article, well, if China had followed the World Bank's advice for the seventies and the eighties the country would still be in the dark ages, so I don't put a lot of stock in their advice. And the idea of Bo as some kind of charismatic outsider is patently silly. He couldn't be any more inside, and there's nothing in his career (or the career of anyone that high in the party) to suggest they would either shake things up, or even be interested in and capable of doing so.
posted by smoke at 3:38 PM on March 26, 2012


I don't know where the idea came from that you can suddenly search for information about tiananmen and falungong on Chinese search engines, but it is very easy to disprove:

搜索结果可能不符合相关法律法规和政策,未予显示。

(Search for June 4th incident, I.e. tiananmen, on Baidu, gives no results and only a warning about government regulations)
posted by Aiwen at 9:25 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know where the idea came from that you can suddenly search for information about tiananmen and falungong on Chinese search engines, but it is very easy to disprove
On March 20th, you could. At the same time, you'd get the censorship notice when searching for Chang'an Ave. My Chinese-speaking friends who pointed this out suggested it was a smokescreen put in place while Chang'an references were pulled down from Weibo and the like. If so, it makes sense that the searches are blocked once again.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:07 PM on March 27, 2012


Foreign Policy has a great article about the longstanding power struggle between Wen Jiabao and Bo Xilai which culminated with Bo being removed from power. Lots of detail and background info.
posted by gemmy at 6:56 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


You bastard Gemmy! I just came in here to link that! John Garnaut is the China correspondent for one of our papers here and consistently writes the only informed reportage about China that we see in Australia. I enjoyed that piece, though I suspect the small cadre of commenters in this post are aware of most of the history. Personally speaking, however, I didn't realise how close the links between Wen Jiabao and Hu Yaobang were - I thought they were much more tenuous than that.
posted by smoke at 2:16 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Coup Rumors Spur China to Hem in Social Networking Sites
posted by homunculus at 5:22 PM on April 3, 2012


China suspends Bo from party elite, and arrest his wife for the murder of that British dude.
posted by smoke at 2:41 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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