“Time for China to Say Goodbye to the ‘Chongqing Model’?”

WSJ’s China RealTimeReport looks at the Wang Lijun/US embassy affair, and tries to draw wider conclusions about the competing Chongqing and Guangdong models:

It’s noteworthy that Wang Lijun had been putting himself forward in the media as a driving force in correcting society. Perhaps Wang saw himself as a political alternative to Bo should the latter leave for Beijing and his sudden departure was the result of being told that outcome was impossible. Was Wang concerned enough about his own future—at the hands of his political adversaries or the enemies in the underworld he was fighting — that he thought political asylum in the United States offered his best protection against retaliation?

Or did Wang have no intention of fleeing the country in the first place? Was he instead trying to signal others that he had something that threatened to bring down the political temple that Bo has built?

Whatever the case, this is no local issue. There are larger matters at play here—including whether or not the so-called “Chongqing model” of high technology and a hardline for society has now been thrown into question by the leave-taking of someone so crucial to the whole enterprise. How strong is the house if one of the architects now seems to have problems with the design?

Then there’s the ongoing leadership transition in Beijing. With Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao about to step down, much has been made of Bo being a possible candidate for elevation to the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee. This latest development will be a challenge for him to overcome in that quest, given that the last thing the central leadership wants in the run-up to the handover is acrimony in the party ranks. Bo will need to convince others above that he’s capable of ensuring unity in his own backyard before he’s entirely trusted at the high table.

On the flip side, the commotion in Chongqing should help Guangdong leader Wang Yang in his own grab for a spot in the Communist Party’s inner circle. In contrast to Bo, Wang Yang’s political strategy reflects the view of the reformist wing of the Party that hardline policies are ill-suited to satisfying Chinese society. Wang Yang is now well-positioned to make the argument that a less draconian approach to maintaining order helps keep the walls of the Party apparatus from shaking.

Still a lot of conjecture, but interesting nonetheless.

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Filed under 2012 power transfer, Chongqing Model/Bo Xilai, Guangzhou Model

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