The NYRoB has a great interview with Bao Tong, who was kicked out of the Communist Party shortly before the Tiananmen Massacre and is followed by groups of police to this day (check out the picture in the article for a glimpse of this dangerous, dangerous man):
When you served in the government, in the 1980s, the older generation was really important. Veterans of the Long March tried to get Deng Xiaoping to reverse economic reforms and many of them supported the 1989 crackdown. What about now? Is there an older generation that still plays that role? Do you think people like former party secretary Jiang Zemin have influence behind the scenes?
There aren’t elders anymore like that. Jiang isn’t a real elder. In the revolution he was a nothing. He doesn’t have that kind of influence. The big difference is that in the past it was one person who decided: Mao and then Deng. Now a few people decide.
Is this good? Some people say the lack of a single strong leader explains why there have been no major economic reforms in the past decade.
Overall it’s a good thing. It’s terrible when just one person decides. You can talk about Deng’s reforms, but what about Mao? He could decide anything but he chose the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward. And Deng, well there was June 4 [the night of the 1989 Beijing massacre].
I think that group of men at the other table are watching us.
Forget them. They follow me wherever I go.
Why is the current system so corrupt? Are there too many interest groups?
No, it’s that too many things are off-limits. If you’re in that system, they’ll say, oh, your son should be a CEO. If you say, no, he shouldn’t, then they say, how can he not? If your son can’t be one then ours can’t be one either. Then they’d push you out of the boat. So if you’re in the boat, you’re corrupt. Everyone has a villa and they give you one. One in Beijing, one in Hangzhou, one in Suzhou, one in Shanghai. You say you don’t want it. What? But even the provincial leaders have villas, how can you not? It’s legal, take it. So if I can say I’m not corrupt it’s because I was an official in the 1980s when it was different. There wasn’t so much money and privileges.
I’ll walk you home.
No, don’t. You go directly into the subway. I’ll walk home. I won’t be alone.