“Bo Xilai’s fall raises questions about Chinese politics”

Tom Lasseter, with an article that looks at some of the same issues as the one Minxin Pei just wrote:

Whatever the causes, the story of Bo’s rise and fall signals an ongoing dilemma for China’s central government — the lack of systemic political reform — that could present serious challenges for the world’s second-largest economy, on which global growth increasingly depends.

On one hand, the nation’s rulers insist that the party remain the unquestionably dominant force over the government and anything that resembles political speech, an approach that largely has shielded officials from accountability amid allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

The accompanying lack of political flexibility, however, makes it difficult to address public grievances in a large-scale manner, leaving issues such as corruption or abuse to fester.

The result has been a central leadership that speaks frequently about change of one stripe or the other but that, so far, continues to rely on authoritarian tactics to enforce its will. In that top-down structure, local officials are left largely beyond the law.

“If political reform had progressed normally, then the story of Bo Xilai would not have occurred,” said He Shu, a local historian of the Cultural Revolution. “If there were democratic, lawful procedures, then things like this would not happen.”

There’s little question that any leader would have faced trouble trying to sort out Chongqing. The greater municipality was carved out of neighboring Sichuan province in 1997, creating a tract of land roughly the size of South Carolina, with 30 million people, centered on a city with a reputation for corruption and organized crime.

Local TV and newspaper reporters were, of course, expected to follow the line Bo set. The same seemed to apply to prosecutors and judges. One lawyer from a well-connected Beijing firm who tried to prepare a defense for an alleged gangster was himself tried on charges of advising his client to give false testimony. The case was interpreted as a warning sign to other attorneys who were thinking about getting in Bo’s path.

“They showed a total disregard for the fundamentals of the law,” said Li Zhuang, the lawyer, who was sentenced to prison in January of 2010 and released about a year and a half later. “What they aimed to do was hide all of the wrongdoings, the unlawful things they’d done in the process of strike black.”

It sounds like rule of law and good governance are becoming even hotter topics among Chinese lawyers and intellectuals and foreign journalists, but whether or not that’s being fully reflected by the Chinese citizenry at large is a different question.

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Filed under 2012 power transfer, Chongqing Model/Bo Xilai, Communist Party

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