Asia Times goes into more detail about Bo Xilai and Wang Yang, two names we’ll likely hear a lot more about as the 2012 leadership transition comes closer. Bo and Wang both have political history in Chongqing, but their styles and policies are very different:
However, the contrast could be down to different political beliefs. When Bo was appointed Chongqing party chief at the end of 2007 to replace Wang, he quickly launched a “hard strike” campaign to crack down on underground gangs. Senior officials working under Wang were netted for corruption and “collusion” with the gangsters, which was interpreted as a slap on Wang’s face.
At the same time, Bo started a city-wide “red movement”, demanding local people sing “red” (revolutionary) songs and study and recite Marxist and Maoist classics, in an effort to restore some of the beliefs and values of chairman Mao Zedong’s era. It is thus logical for him to seek equality and wealth distribution.
Bo has put his beliefs into practice. The Chongqing government has allocated 300 billion yuan in recent years to subsidize education, medical care and housing in rural areas. It has also set a goal to reduce the local Gini co-efficient, a measurement of the wealth gap, to 0.35 from the current 0.42. Chongqing has a party committee devoted to working out policy principles on narrowing wealth gap.
In contrast, when Wang became Guangdong party chief in late 2007, he called for further “emancipation of thought” and deepening reform and opening-up. “Emancipation of thought” was a slogan initiated by Deng to encourage liberal ideas to pave the way for his reform and opening-up policy.
Recently in an online chat with netizens, Wang said “We [communist officials] should allow ordinary people to swear at us if we are not doing a good job.”
In today’s China where the wealth gap is large and expanding, it is not hard to see that Bo’s views are more welcomed by the public. Angry netizens say now the “cake” in China is already quite big, and the problem is that only a small minority “who prospered first” can take a bite.
But political battles in China are silently conducted within the CCP. No outsiders can presume whose views will fall out of favor before next year’s 18th congress.