More on Wang Lijun and Bo Xilai, this time from Gordon Chang. Chang’s perspective is well-known, but I don’t see anything wrong with his analysis:
On the 6th of this month, Wang entered the American consulate in Chengdu, the capital of neighboring Sichuan Province, seeking asylum. He spent a day there. Incredibly, his old boss, Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, essentially invaded Sichuan by sending hundreds of his armed security troops to surround the Chengdu consulate in an unsuccessful bid to apprehend Wang.
It’s no surprise that Bo wanted to grab hold of his onetime trusted assistant. Wang evidently was willing to turn over sensitive documents about Bo or his wife, and that looked like it would mean the end of his career. The charismatic Bo has not hidden his desire for a seat on the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of political power in China.
Why did Wang try to defect? The rumor mills in China are working overtime, but it’s a fact that Wang is famous for arresting about 6,000 triad gangsters, corrupt officials, and others at the behest of Bo. Wang’s tough law enforcement, along with Bo’s political maneuverings, threatened, among others, senior Beijing leaders. Some are even whispering that Hu Jintao, China’s current top leader, engineered the extraordinary events of last week. If that is true, then Xi Jinping, supposedly China’s next supremo, may be vulnerable, as he is believed to be more closely aligned to Bo than to Hu.
In fact, the Wang incident indicates that factionalism, evident in recent years, is worse than most observers thought. As the Communist Party tries to downplay ideology, its members are drifting into coalitions and finding something new to fight about. Bo is member of the “Princelings,” a group comprising offspring of party leaders, and Hu Jintao a part of the Communist Youth League group. Xi is considered a member of the former grouping but has ties across several factions, including the Shanghai Gang. Last week’s unexpected events, when factional infighting became visible in public, indicate that these groups have yet to agree on the Fifth Generation leadership lineup.
After Wang Lijun was whisked away to Beijing, it appeared to most observers that Bo’s career would end soon. Yet he is refusing to give up and is reportedly seeking the help of certain generals. This may be a winning tactic. After all, the military looks like it has become the most influential bloc in the Communist Party, in part because it has remained relatively cohesive while civilian leaders have fought among themselves.
The rise of the military—really, the partial remilitariziation of politics and policy—and factional splintering is resulting in a change in the nature of the regime. As this process of change continues, we can only wonder what happens next.