“Why the coup rumours in China aren’t going away”

Mark MacKinnon in The Globe and Mail on why the rumors are lingering:

I know many of the foreign journalists based here, and more than a few of the Chinese ones. None have ever claimed to me, or their readers, that they have a contact inside, or even close to, the decision-making Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China.

Which, often, is to the credit of those who run this country. This is not a place where trial balloons get floated by cabinet ministers trying to build public support and win funding for their pet project, nor are China’s leaders crippled by the constant and public infighting that brought down Canada’s Liberal Party or Britain’s Labour, to name two prominent examples.

But the wall of secrecy that Communist Party leadership has built around itself also prevents the development of trust between the government, media and public. It leaves the media with no one to talk to and get real information from when there’s a wild rumour floating about, like the continuing – and so far unfounded – talk that some kind of coup d’état was attempted Monday night in Beijing. And it leaves the public unsure of what to believe in such situations.

The mutiny was supposedly led by a leftist faction inside the Politburo headed by Zhou Yongkang, the chief of China’s massive internal security apparatus, and the recently ousted leadership contender Bo Xilai.

In another country, reporters would have been on the phone to people in the offices of Mr. Hu, Mr. Wen, Mr. Zhou and Mr. Bo, in all likelihood getting a quick denial that there was anything like a coup happening.

So the rumour has continued to snowball all week, to the point where some believe it had an effect on the foreign exchange markets. The esteemed Financial Times finally felt compelled to report on Thursday that “the Chinese capital is awash with speculation, innuendo and rumours of a coup.”

And now I’m passing on the scuttlebutt too. Why? Because no one in Zhongnanhai is taking my calls. They’re not taking anyone’s calls – which leaves the outside world in the dark at a crucial moment in Chinese history (by which I mean the once-in-a-decade leadership transition that begins this fall, not the rumoured coup effort).

It’s too bad, too, because Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang swept from Chinese politics forever would be really nice to see. In a Party leadership crammed full of crappy guys they’re both standout icons of crappiness, and I’m sad to see that Zhou making it the remaining few months until his term ends is looking more and likely.

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Filed under 2012 power transfer

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