Category Archives: Chongqing Model/Bo Xilai

“Bo Xilai’s son returns to China to play role in father’s ‘imminent’ trial”

So… is this thing actually happening? Rumors have been surfacing that claim Bo Xilai will be put on trial tomorrow night. I’ve seen a few facts put forth that make that seem unlikely, but would anyone really be surprised by the Party doing this suddenly and without warning? I guess we’ll see in a few hours. Malcolm Moore with some details:

Bo Guagua’s return to Beijing comes amid rumours that his father’s trial is imminent.

Mingjing News, a Hong Kong newspaper which has been more often wrong than right about Communist party politics, reported that the trial will begin on Monday in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province.

Mr Bo is likely to be put on trial in a “neutral” location, well away from his power bases in Beijing, Chongqing and Dalian.

But Changsha, if correct, would be a theatrical flourish by the Party leadership: it is the home city of Mao Tse-tung, whose revolutionary ideology Mr Bo so often espoused.

One post on Weibo suggested that all Chinese newspapers have been instructed to “clear space” for major news arriving today or tomorrow.

However, one diplomatic source said the news could be Mr Bo’s indictment, rather than an actual trial. “I heard a rumour that charges will be laid at the court on October 15 or 16. If so, according to the criminal procedure law, a trial would follow within 15 days,” he added.

That leaves just enough time for the Party to wrap up the deeply divisive case before it opens its 18th Party Congress on November 8 and readies a once-in-a-decade change of its top leaders.

The younger Mr Bo will also have to tread carefully: some experts have said the evidence presented at his mother’s trial and at the trial of Wang Lijun, his father’s chief of police, could incriminate him.

“They laid the ground to bring charges against Bo Guagua if they want. If not, it means they have done a deal,” said the diplomatic source.

UPDATE: Turns out Bo Guagua may not even be in China, so… oops. More on this when it either happens or doesn’t happen.

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“The Bo Xilai Case: China’s Pandora’s Box”

Evan Osnos on the verdict we’ve all been waiting for– Bo, guilty:

The Chinese Communist Party has just done something it hates to do: hang its dirty laundry out in public. With a level of force and lurid color that surprised just about everyone who pays attention to these things, on Friday the Party ended the greatest guessing game in Chinese politics by unveiling the charges against the once-golden politician Bo Xilai.

According to the announcement of the charges, Bo “abused his power, made severe mistakes, and bore major responsibility” for the attempted defection of a powerful police chief and the murder of a British businessman (a crime for which his wife was convicted). In other words, the state is saying that he had a hand in killing or covering up the killing of a foreigner, and that he failed to prevent a bearer of secrets from attempting to flee.

There’s more: “He took advantage of his office to seek profits for others and received huge bribes personally and through his family. His position was also abused by his wife, Bogu Kailai, to seek profits for others, and his family thereby accepted a huge amount of money and property from others.” In today’s China, what is a “huge amount”? Well, Bloomberg figured that Bo’s in-laws had more than a hundred million dollars in assets. And those are the ones we know about. “Bo had affairs and maintained improper sexual relationships with a number of women.” Plural? The émigré journalist Jiang Weiping has estimated that Bo had somewhere around a hundred mistresses.

One of the biggest surprises in these charges is that the Party didn’t confine its attention to the dramatic events of this spring and declare victory. On the contrary, they harkened back to virtually his full political career, accusing of him impropriety as early as his posts in Manchuria, where he was first stationed in 1984. That’s a quarter century of opportunities, and for years, Bo was said to have been involved in corruption. But nobody ever thought he would be prosecuted for it, not any more than they think that the other members of the Politburo who are routinely subject to rumors about corruption will ever see a day in court.

And therein lies the powder keg at the center of the Bo Xilai case. In seeking to purge him with a finality that can restore short-term political balance, the Party may have raised a more dangerous spectre: the full-scale accounting of a life in government. The results could reveal a culture of self-dealing and personal enrichment that exceeds even the Chinese public’s considerable tolerance of official abuse. It may start a conversation that will be hard to end.

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“China jails former police chief Wang Lijun for 15 years”

Speculation seems to point in the direction of Wang being the last piece of the puzzle the Party wanted to square away before moving on to Bo himself, so now we have to wonder what exactly will happen next (via The Guardian):

China has spared the high-flying police chief whose flight to a US consulate led to the toppling of leader Bo Xilai, with a court in Chengdu handing him a relatively lenient 15 year jail sentence on Monday.

Wang Lijun, 52, had previously been Bo’s right hand man in Chongqing, winning plaudits for the pair’s populist anti-gang crackdown and earning a promotion to vice mayor.

State news agency Xinhua said the Chengdu intermediate people’s court found him guilty of defection, accepting bribes of at least 3 million yuan, abuse of power and bending the law to selfish ends by covering up the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood by Bo’s wife Gu Kailai.

Gu was last month handed a suspended death sentence for the crime, while an aide who helped her was jailed for nine years.

“[Fifteen years] was in the realm of expectations but I would say on the low end of what most people were expecting,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, an expert on the Chinese criminal justice system.

A subsequent report from state news agency Xinhua formally linked Bo to the case for the first time – raising the chances of him too facing trial.

Although it mentioned him only by position, rather than name, it described him scolding and hitting Wang after he alleged that Gu had murdered Heywood.

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“Bo’s Downfall Is Tied to Wiretapping”

Alright, this one might be the most definitive account of exactly what got Bo in so much trouble- as it turns out, people speculating that the death of Mr. Heywood was just an excuse may have been pretty close to the truth. Nothing new about Zhou Yongkang, although note the allegations that Fang Binxing may have been involved, which could mean that we’ll end up seeing another enormously satisfying casualty before this thing ends:

When Hu Jintao, China’s top leader, picked up the telephone last August to talk to a senior anticorruption official visiting Chongqing, special devices detected that he was being wiretapped — by local officials in that southwestern metropolis.

The discovery of that and other wiretapping led to an official investigation that helped topple Chongqing’s charismatic leader, Bo Xilai, in a political cataclysm that has yet to reach a conclusion.

Nearly a dozen sources with party ties, speaking anonymously for fear of retribution, confirmed the wiretapping, as well as a widespread program of bugging across Chongqing. But the party’s public version of Mr. Bo’s fall omits it.

The murder account is pivotal to the scandal, providing Mr. Bo’s opponents with an unassailable reason to have him removed. But party insiders say the wiretapping was seen as a direct challenge to central authorities. It revealed to them just how far Mr. Bo, who is now being investigated for serious disciplinary violations, was prepared to go in his efforts to grasp greater power in China. That compounded suspicions that Mr. Bo could not be trusted with a top slot in the party, which is due to reshuffle its senior leadership positions this fall.

The architect was Mr. Wang, a nationally decorated crime-fighter who had worked under Mr. Bo in the northeast province of Liaoning. Together they installed “a comprehensive package bugging system covering telecommunications to the Internet,” according to the government media official.

One of several noted cyber-security experts they enlisted was Fang Binxing, president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, who is often called the father of China’s “Great Firewall,” the nation’s vast Internet censorship system.

“Bo wanted to push the responsibility onto Wang,” one senior party official said. “Wang couldn’t dare say it was Bo’s doing.”

Yet at some point well before fleeing Chongqing, Mr. Wang filed a pair of complaints to the inspection commission, the first anonymously and the second under his own name, according to a party academic with ties to Mr. Bo.

Both complaints said Mr. Bo had “opposed party central” authorities, including ordering the wiretapping of central leaders. The requests to investigate Mr. Bo were turned down at the time. Mr. Bo, who learned of the charges at a later point, told the academic shortly before his dismissal that he thought he could withstand Mr. Wang’s charges.

Alright, if Zhou Yongkang is still going to coast through this one, having Fang Binxing disgraced and blacklisted by Beijing would be almost as good. He may have survived having a pair of shoes thrown at him by a Chinese student, but surviving the aftermath of colluding with a surveillance scheme aimed at Zhongnanhai might be harder.

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“In Bo Xilai scandal, China’s national leaders fear their undoing”

The latest from Tom Lasseter on the Bo scandal:

Many Chinese already have little or no trust in local officials and their allies, who they often believe are corrupt, venal and, at times, murderous. Should they come to believe the same about national figures, then the careful dance that takes place whenever there is unrest in China – people pinning hopes on intervention from the central government – could lose its footing.

In a nation known for reliance on police state tactics, it’s difficult to predict what might follow.

Viewed from the outside, China is a rising economic juggernaut poised for greatness. At home, however, it has struggled to contain the corrosive effects of corruption and abuse of power by officials and their allies. Although hundreds of millions of Chinese were lifted from extreme poverty in the past three decades of growth managed by the Communist Party, public resentment has grown over the widening gap in wealth and privilege.

The story of Bo and his family threatens to feed that dissatisfaction, suggesting an elite increasingly removed from those it governs, a Mafia-like clutch of political families who’ve enriched themselves through corruption.

This past week, notices from the Chongqing public security bureau were plastered on one wall after another in Wansheng, which was absorbed by a neighboring district in December. They gave a long list of infractions that would meet with punishment, including disrupting traffic, confusing the public with rumors, participating in illegal rallies and transmitting slogans by cellphone texts or Internet messages. Guilty parties should turn themselves in or bear serious consequences, the signs said.

At a shop close to a main square, where police vans were still parked along the side of the road, a group of locals looked up nervously when asked why there hadn’t been an initial political solution to their grievances.

One middle-aged man in an olive blazer stood up to leave the shop and, as he passed a reporter, said, “The Chinese government is the most corrupted …” He did not finish the sentence.

A woman behind the counter said that it might be better for the reporter to leave.

“If the police come they will hold me responsible for having you here,” she said. She, like the others, did not give her name.

Another, younger man, sitting on a red stool, asked the room, with scorn in his voice, “Is it useful to write letters in the world of the Communist Party?”

People got quiet. Soon, the shop was empty.

There was another WaPo piece today covering the potential Zhou Yongkang tie-in and the chances of seeing him removed before he has to retire late this year, but they sadly didn’t have much new evidence to add to the case.

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“Zhou Yongkang, China Security Chief, Investigated As Bo Xilai Scandal Expands”

Please be true, please be true, please be true, please be true, please be true, please be true:

China’s leaders want Bo Xilai’s downfall seen as a blow against corruption – not as part of a power struggle. But with a second, even higher-ranking Politburo member now suspected to be under pressure, it will become difficult to avoid the perception of all-out infighting.

Moves against Zhou Yongkang, China’s security chief, could undermine attempts to portray the Bo scandal as a fight to uphold the rule of law and would reinforce a skeptical public’s view that the Communist Party is in disarray months before a once-a-decade transfer of power to new leaders.

“Internally, the power struggle is getting more intense and, if true, Zhou’s removal would be seriously damaging,” Beijing-based political analyst Li Fan said.

Zhou, 72, is widely reported to have been the only leading official to have argued against last week’s striking decision to suspend Bo’s membership in the 25-seat Politburo – a step that effectively ended the political career of one of China’s most ambitious and high-profile politicians.

Bo’s removal has fueled cynicism among ordinary Chinese, leading to a flood of rumors and speculation – much of it online – about political feuding among the leaders and even attempted coups. Taking down Zhou would only reinforce such views, said Joseph Cheng, who heads the Contemporary China Research Center at the City University of Hong Kong.

“It furthers the perception that all cadres are corrupt and all corruption investigations are political,” said Cheng, who believes Hu would prefer to sidestep further conflict by allowing Zhou to retire after this fall’s party congress as originally expected.

The only way the Bo Xilai affair could get any better is if it spells an end to Zhou Yongkang as well. Don’t let me down, Boxun.


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“Utopia website shutdown: interview with Fan Jinggang”

Alright, hard to beat the irony of the hard-left Maoist figures getting censored and shut down by the same heavy-handed authoritarian state they’ve always supported. A Danwei writer interviewed Fan Jinggang, the man behind one of the biggest sites in the neo-Maoist revival, and you have to enjoy the undercurrent of crow-eating throughout the piece:

In the days immediately following Bo’s removal from his post as Party Secretary and head of Chongqing on March 15, Utopia had experienced connectivity issues. Fan said that this could have been a server problem – “judging from our server’s data, it was mainly caused by the sharp rise of visits that went beyond the system capacity,” but he isn’t shy of offering some vague conspiracy theorizing, adding that “it’s also possible certain forces, domestic or overseas, maliciously attacked our website.”

He was being disingenuous: at the same time that Utopia was having problems, other Maoist websites such as Mao Flag and Red China went offline or displayed “under maintenance” messages which is what Chinese websites often show when ordered to be shut down. But Utopia continued publishing – until Friday April 6, when the authorities paid Fan Jinggang a visit, shortly before we spoke.

Fan seemed unfazed by the encounter; a few days later, though, Fan told me he could no longer answer follow-up questions: Bo Xilai, it had been officially announced, was now under central investigation and the clampdown was in full swing.

Despite Utopia’s pugnacious attitude towards liberals and the government’s current worries about the website, it’s worth mentioning how unthreatening Fan and his store appear. His small, sixth-storey bookshop — left out the lift, past the masseuse, hit the smell of mildew and you’re there — has nothing on its shelves to sound any alarms. The titles — The Secret of American Hegemony, The End of the American Century, China’s Prosperity About to Go Bust?, 25 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism! — have the tone of harmless public eccentrics, buttonholing readers with cranky political theories.

Fan sees Utopia as defending the “interests of the country and the people” against the self-interests of the reformers. Many are receptive to his ideas: Utopia claims 500 million total visits, and Fan says the site recently rose to being among the top 600 sites in the PRC. The 200,000 or so articles they have published were submitted by “big-city readers… mostly intellectuals who are concerned about China’s society and economy… 90 percent of them are supporters of our general idea.”

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“So, bye bye Bo Xilai. Tripped up by your wife and a dead Lao Wai.”

Rectified Name has a post about the latest turn in the Bo Xilai affair- apparently the (widely panned) rumors that Bo may have been involved in the death of a British citizen in Chongqing are true, according to Xinhua. There’s a real risk involved in switching the propaganda gears around so quickly, as Jeremiah Jenne writes:

For nearly two months after the “Lin Biao Affair” in September, 1971, the Party was able to keep a lid on the story, knowing how confused people would be to hear the Mao’s closest comrade at arms and chosen successor had in fact tried to betray the Chairman and then died in the act of defecting to the Soviet Union.[2] By contrast, the Party’s attempts to control the Bo Xilai story over the past few months has been like watching drunk chimps try to make wall art with a bucket of jello and a couple of nail guns.

The problem with rumors is that they’re usually not true. The problem with rumors in China is that people believe them anyway because most people know that the ‘state media’ is nothing but an enormous firehose of steaming donkey shit. The problem with rumors in China NOW is that rumors which at first glance seemed too crazy to be true turned out to be pretty accurate.

Global Times editor Hu Xijin both on Weibo last night and in the paper this morning has been gloating about how this whole mess is really a testament to China’s rule of law. You see, we foreigners have it all wrong. We look at the situation and see a high-ranking Party official run his own personal fiefdom, torturing his enemies and allowing his wife to take become the Tony Montana of Chongqing.[3] What we’re missing is the part where…No, I don’t think we’re missing anything here. That’s pretty much what happened.

Lin Biao’s fall from grace marked the beginning of the end of the Cultural Revolution and, indeed, the Mao era. It forced too many people to confront the very real possibility that the Party had been jerking them around for years.

People today are already very cynical. The government’s annoucement of Bo Xilai’s dismissal and the investigation into his family and associates – essentially confirming rumors that for months the censors have been working overtime to squash – just might be one of those moments.

Or at least part of an ongoing process, with other fundamentally trust-destroying moments like the high-speed disaster last year and the ensuing PR disaster serving as ongoing testaments to the real relationship between the Party and the people.

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“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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“Why is the rumor mill still spinning?”

Tom at SeeingRedInChina has a good post looking at why the censorship machine is letting so much noise get through on the Bo Xilai affair:

A second possibility, is that those in control of the Party (and no one is actually certain that there is a power struggle), want to make sure that Bo Xilai and his allies have been thrown completely under the bus. A number of stories have appeared about Bo’s Chongqing policies being reversed that support this theory. I also suspect this because my co-workers have been uncharacteristically well informed about the rumors, even though they don’t spend much time on Weibo, and don’t know how to escape the limits of the Chinese web. While there haven’t been any explicit descriptions of what has happened, there have been more nods than in the past.

I think this is probably pretty close to the mark, given how many fronts opened up so quickly in the attack on Bo. Some kind of anti-Bo coalition is definitely trying to inflict maximum damage on his political base, patronage lines, and ideology while he’s down.

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Bo Xilai and the Coup that Wasn’t: More Post-Mortems

With a few more days space having gone by, more writers have chipped in with opinions on what we can learn from the event and the subsequent non-event. From Caixin Online:

Even after the fall of the Gang of Four, in 1976, China struggled for a time before finding the right path to development. The decision on reform and opening up was reached at the third plenary session of the Eleventh Central Committee in 1978 and was affirmed by the resolution.

No one can refute this decision. No matter how difficult the project of reform has been, China cannot turn back. The painful lessons of history are too raw.

Today, the multiple frustrations of daily life are feeding into public discontent, which can easily turn into mob rage. We’ve seen how, during the Cultural Revolution, ambitious politicians and fanatical populism ended up destroying civilization. Just recently, Vice President Xi Jinping warned in an essay against party cadres who play to the crowd for personal gain. History cautions us that regression for China would be dangerous. It reminds leaders of their responsibility to press on with reforms – they must face up to problems and win people’s support for reforms.

Political reform is not frightening. Reform should be gradual but firm. Two tasks in the government’s work report directly relate to political reform: to hasten administrative reform and enhance measures to fight corruption. Both hold the key to a breakthrough in reform progress. The government must, as Wen pledged, press on.

The Communist Party will soon hold its 18th party congress, where some progress on promoting intra-party democracy is expected, including competitive elections. The recent political events underline the urgency of political reform. It is time for a responsible government to act.

From the LA Times:

Jin Zhong, a veteran political analyst based in Hong Kong, dismissed the more fantastic rumors, while acknowledging the underlying tension between economic reformers and Maoist traditionalists.

“It hasn’t reached the point where you are going to hear gunshots. It is not like when China arrested the Gang of Four in 1976, but there is a very strong conflict going on,” Jin said.

Zhou had been a strong supporter of Bo’s law-and-order campaigns in Chongqing, where thousands were swept up in a gang-busting dragnet and retirees had been gathering in a public park for now-banned patriotic singing and dancing. According to Jin, Zhou made several visits to the Chongqing delegation at the recently concluded National People’s Congress, fighting for Bo’s political future until the very end.

Like most of China’s senior leaders, the 70-year-old Zhou is due to retire at the 18th party congress in October. Until recently, Bo was thought to be a likely replacement. Jin said he doubted that Zhou would be removed from the Standing Committee because he is already set to leave.

“They won’t touch anybody on the Standing Committee before the congress. It is too risky. They’ve put in a big effort trying to present a picture of stability,” Jin said.

From Jerome Cohen:

Many Chinese legal experts took grim satisfaction at Bo Xilai’s removal from office as Party leader of Chongqing. Bo, after all, had created nostalgia for the national nightmare that was the Cultural Revolution, a decade-long, lawless trampling on the lives of over one hundred million people. Even more obnoxious to Chinese law reformers was Bo’s endorsement of Chongqing police, prosecutors and judges who violated the rights of suspects while pursuing his highly-publicized campaign to snuff out alleged Mafia and corruption. Bo and his henchman, public security chief Wang Lijun, subjected detainees to hideous torture, coerced confessions and unfair trials, also intimidating and punishing defense lawyers.

The central government’s public response to those blatant illegalities was virtually nil. Yet the mysterious halting in mid-trial of a second prosecution against lawyer Li Zhuang, who had already been convicted and imprisoned for supposedly instigating false testimony by claiming that his alleged Mafia client had been tortured, may have signaled Beijing’s impatience with Chongqing justice. That second case had evoked unusual protests from prestigious lawyers, law professors and others.

What Chinese criminal justice urgently needs is a reformer with the power, energy, vision, ability, personality and determination of a Zhu Rongji, the former Prime Minister who in the late 1990s saw the need to transform the traditional socialist economy and, through relentless effort, brought it about.

Is there such a leader on China’s horizon? Communist officials do not reach the apex of their system by advocating human rights and criminal justice, and none would show his hand before attaining power. Khruschev’s introduction of “de-Stalinization” in 1956 stunned many observers who, before his ascension, had mistaken him as Stalin’s “running dog”.

This may be the unrecognized tragedy of Bo Xilai. Before turning Chongqing into a “leftist” base for his ascent, Bo had impressed foreign observers with his intelligence, education and sophistication. Had his risky campaign succeeded, he might have seen that China’s new stage of development requires not a return to Maoism but greater respect for the rule of law, and seized the opportunity to play an historic role by doing for criminal justice what Zhu Rongji did for the economy. Surely, Bo had the charisma and boldness required to mobilize both bureaucratic and public support for this momentous change.

Far-fetched? Remember, it was Richard Nixon, the arch anti-communist, who had the foresight, nerve and political freedom to move toward the future by traveling to what he earlier called “Red China”. Sometimes, cynical politicians become statesmen – if they reach the top.

Although yeah, still kinda far-fetched.

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Beijing Coup: Not Really.

Zhou Yongkang has been spotted out and about a few times, so it looks like he didn’t really try anything. As a few days have gone people have started asking how the rumors got so out of hand, and to what extent they actually reflected tensions with the Communist Party. From The Economist:

The party, which normally tries to suppress any expression of sympathy for purged leaders, is either failing this time, or else it is not trying very hard. It could well be a sign that Chinese leaders themselves are divided over how to handle Mr Bo’s case and the public reaction to it.

Uniquely among Chinese politicians in the post-Tiananmen period, Mr Bo had acquired a vocal and genuinely admiring fan club. Silencing this group will not be easy. It happens to include people whom party traditionalists regard as hailing from the most venerable sectors of the population: workers laid off from state-owned factories, retired cadres, and intellectuals who remain doggedly committed to old-fashioned communist ideals. Before Mr Bo was sacked, articles praising him and his “Chongqing model” were a staple of websites controlled by die-hard Maoists in China.

For several days after Mr Bo’s dismissal, some Maoist websites ceased functioning. It is unclear whether they were ordered to shut down, or whether they prudently decided to keep quiet while they assessed the political mood. But they are now back in business, not in the least cowed, it would seem, by the disgrace of their hero.

The nationwide upheaval of 1989 started when supporters of Hu Yaobang took to the streets to mourn his death, two years after he had been dismissed as party chief. But any such displays of sympathy on behalf of Mr Bo are highly unlikely this time. The Maoists could probably mobilise protests involving disparate groups of marginalised citizens. But they enjoy little support among the urban middle class or intellectuals. And they would likely resist causing unrest, for fear of appearing disloyal to the party. These are, however, volatile times politically as the party prepares for a sweeping transfer of power at a congress late this year.

On March 23rd, the party’s main mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, published an article on its front page which says that Mr Zhou sent a letter to a conference in Shanghai in which he expressed support for Mr Hu’s leadership. This may have been an attempt to scotch rumours that he was involved in a coup, though it has been widely noted that Mr Zhou did not turn up for the meeting in person. And then Mr Zhou was to be spotted again on an evening broadcast of CCTV, on “Xinwen Lianbo”, as if to prove that he is not under house arrest, or anything of the sort.

From CNN, on how censorship ended up fueling the rumors:

What is happening in Beijing?

This is a question that has China watchers and Chinese themselves puzzling and pondering.

“In the absence of transparency and credible official media, rumors fly,” noted Bill Bishop, an independent analyst who closely follows China’s Internet and social media industry.

Even a traffic accident report triggered political rumors. When a Ferrari reportedly crashed on one of Beijing’s “Ring Roads” last weekend, Weibo was abuzz with wild speculation about the driver — rumored to be a godson of a top communist party official.

By Tuesday, the English-language edition of the Global Times — a newspaper affiliated with the official People’s Daily — one reported that “almost all online information” about the crash had been deleted overnight, “triggering suspicions as to the identity of the deceased driver.”

For days, the word “Ferrari” was blocked.

On Weibo, bloggers who type in Bo’s name, or even his initials BXL and homophones, typically get an automatic reply: “Due to relevant regulations and policies, search results for ‘Bo Xilai’ are not being displayed.”

Censorship has been inconsistent, experts note. “Rumors were blocked and unblocked,” recalled Bishop. “For most of the day at the height of the coup rumors, you could search for ‘zhengbian’ (coup) and on some days it was blocked.”

Such erratic censorship has created confusion compounded by questions of where the rumors originated.

“It’s the first time in China that a political power struggle has played out in the era of Weibo (micro-blogging),” said Bishop. “It’s as important to get information out on Weibo as it is to publish it on CCTV or the People’s Daily.”

But cyberspace censorship, Bishop argues, is not good for China’s global image — nor for the rest of the world.

Finally, Reuters on what happens to Bo now:

Accounts vary of when the party leadership decided Bo had to go, but most sources said the curtain fell within 72 hours of his combative news conference.

At a post-parliament news conference five days after Bo’s performance, Premier Wen Jiabao suggested Bo was culpable not only for Wang’s flight but also for conjuring up false nostalgia for Mao’s era. China needed political reform, without which “such historical tragedies as the Cultural Revolution may happen again in China”, Wen said.

“Wen’s words revealed the split,” said the former Chongqing official. “It turned this into a line struggle.”

The next day, the government announced Bo had been removed as party secretary of Chongqing.

China’s leaders now appear uncertain about how to deal with the downfall of a popular politician.

“The 18th Congress outcome hasn’t been settled yet, and this makes it more difficult, because Bo Xilai represented many left-leaning voices in China,” said Wang Wen, a Beijing journalist who has met Bo.

A week after his fall, Bo remains out of sight, with unconfirmed speculation he remains in Beijing available for questioning. His abrupt departure has kindled wild rumors, including one this week of a coup attempt.

“The game is not over yet. There’s no full-stop on this yet,” said the ex-official familiar with Bo.

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“Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang were planning coup”

This is a WantChinaTimes summary of a Mingjing article, so lets just go ahead and call it probably reasonably inaccurate, but at least we get the gist of what the coup was even supposed to be about. The article ties Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai, and Zhou Yongkang’s stories together in a neat little package- what a shame it probably isn’t the case:

Detained former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun is rumored to hold evidence of a secret plot by Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang to block the expected succession of Chinese vice president Xi Jinping as general secretary of the Communist Party, according to Mingjing News, a New York-based website allegedly sourced by political insiders.

Mingjing News, a widely read news portal, has now linked Bo’s downfall to an alleged conspiracy to prevent Xi from becoming the most powerful member of the CCP.

According to an unnamed Beijing source, Zhou Yongkang, a member of the elite nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, secretly promised to help Bo join him in the country’s most powerful decision-making body and take over his role as secretary of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee. This would have allowed Bo to control the People’s Armed Police and Ministry of Public Security, and force Xi to step down before inserting himself in the vice president’s place as expected future general secretary, the source said.

Mingjing also reported that Bo, through Wang and in the name of Chongqing’s Public Security Bureau, purchased 5,000 rifles and 50,000 rounds of ammunition from a local munitions factory last year in order to create a private army. The People’s Armed Police has already been sent to Chongqing to investigate the whereabouts of the weapons, the report said.

Wang and Kong have allegedly known each other for more than 20 years and collaborated on several business deals. Due to the closeness of their relationship, the source said that Wang has evidence of years of egregious corruption on the part of Kong, Zhou’s son and wife, and their secretaries, Yu Gang and Tan Hong. Wang has reportedly moved the evidence overseas, partly to the US consulate, as leverage to ensure that he remains protected. This is why Zhou, who fears the release of that information, has not yet handed Wang over to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, sources said. Fear of the ramifications of holding information on Kong and Zhou was crucial in leading Wang to attempt defection and to Bo’s eventual dismissal, said the source. Kong will remain the focus of whatever happens next, the source added.

Bo is now believed to be under house arrest in Beijing while his wife, Gu Kailai, has reportedly been taken by the discipline inspection committee for questioning. According to Foreign Reference News, a magazine rumored to be affiliated with Jiang’s political faction, Hu was said to have personally directed Bo’s arrest, ordering the secretariat and the director of the General Office of the Central Committee to mobilize the country’s secret security force, the Central Guard Bureau.

A Beijing observer also told Mingjing that all of Bo’s supporters are currently in the hands of the bureau, which arrested and detained them under a different set of rules.

Mingjing has been able to provide little substantive evidence to back up any claims made by it or its source. The website said it will reveal more news on Bo in due course.

Yeeeep. A foiled leftist plot would be a great way to usher in a political reformation by the victorious pro-reform camp, so no one wants this to be true more than me… but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to support it at the moment.

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“Beijing on edge amid coup rumours”

FT on all the rumors that have been flying around over the last two days:

Since Bo Xilai, one of China’s most powerful leaders, was removed from his job last Thursday, the bureaucracy and the public have been on tenterhooks, awaiting the next twist in the gripping political saga.

In one rumour that spread rapidly on Monday night, a military coup had been launched by Zhou Yongkang, an ally of Mr Bo’s and the man in charge of China’s state security apparatus, and gun battles had erupted in Zhongnanhai, the top leadership compound in the heart of Beijing.

But when the Financial Times drove past the compound late on Monday night, all appeared calm and by Wednesday evening there was no indication that anything was out of the ordinary.

However, one person with close ties to China’s security apparatus said Mr Zhou had been ordered not to make any public appearances or take any high-level meetings and was “already under some degree of control”.

Adding to the air of intrigue in the capital, a report of a fatal car crash on Sunday involving the son of a top leader and a Ferrari appeared on the internet but was quickly removed by official censors.

Netizens and one source with close ties to China’s top leaders said the illegitimate son of a politburo standing committee member was killed in the crash and two young women were badly hurt.

It’s been odd seeing stories of the coup published, then retracted, then in a few cases un-retracted. The most likely scenario now is probably that in the aftermath of Bo being purged some of his ideological allies are also finding themselves in trouble, although how much trouble and whether or not it will last are very different questions.

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“Bo’s Ides of March”

Chovanec adds his take on Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai, and the future of the Chongqing model:

In events such as today’s, the temptation is to look solely at the proximate (or immediate) cause. The proximate cause of Bo’s downfall was last month’s “Wang Lijun Incident,” where a top lieutenant of Bo’s, apparently under corruption investigation, sought refuge in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu (near Chongqing, in southwest China) before leaving the consulate and being placed under arrest. The exact circumstances, and the extent of Bo’s involvement, still remain something of a mystery. But the important thing is, the incident cast a shadow on Bo, and that shadow fell on already fertile ground. Whatever the real truth of the incident, it became a weapon in the hands of his enemies. The real cause of Bo’s downfall were the distrust and resentment that gave rise to so many enemies.

And those enemies were powerful. It’s no coincidence that just days after the Wang Lijun Incident, prominent Chinese academics were coming out publicly, saying that Bo Xilai’s career and the entire “Chongqing Model” were finished — they wouldn’t have blast such a senior Party leader, a Politburo member, without protection and encouragement from very high up. It’s no coincidence, either, that He Guoqiang, the man in charge of internal Party discipline, greeted the Chongqing NPC delegation with a warning that “the current weather in Chongqing is very different from that in Beijing” and urged them to “mind their own health.”

Bo’s real problem wasn’t liberal critics or sports cars or even turncoat lieutenants — although these became convenient nails in his coffin. Plenty of Chinese officials, snug in their patronage networks, have survived (or even shrugged off) far worse. The Party takes care of its own. But top Party leaders, regardless of political philosophy, had come to dislike Bo, not as a person per se — by all accounts, Bo is an extraordinarily charming man — but as a political persona, at least in his Chongqing incarnation, for three reasons:

First, they were offended by his courting of the media and his vigorous self-promotion, which showed a lack of appropriate deference and humility to established power channels and ways of resolving competition. Second, they felt threatened, because few of them were equipped to compete on this basis, if that’s what it took. Third, they were alarmed by Bo’s tactic of “mobilizing the masses” in ways that explicitly invoked the Cultural Revolution, which called up deep-seated fears that populist fervor could be used as a weapon against rival leaders within the Party — as indeed happened during the Cultural Revolution, to horrific results.

Good analysis, as always.

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Bo Xilai Humiliation Celebration Station

Whether or not he’s out of politics forever, this certainly does seem to be a pretty big derail for Bo’s career. From WaPo:

The report made no mention of whether Bo also lost his position on the Party central committee and Politburo in Beijing.

The report came one day after Prime Minister Wen Jiabao used a press conference to publicly rebuke Bo for a Feb 6 scandal that saw the former Chongqing police chief seek refuge for 24 hours at the American consulate in Chengdu.

“This is an earthquake before the 18th Party Congress,” said Wu Jiaxiang, a Chinese scholar. He called the dismissal Thursday the end of just one power struggle over the seats on the next Standing Committee.

According to Chinese media reports, Li Yuanchao, head of the Communist Party’s secretive and powerful organization department which controls personnel and staffing, traveled personally to Chongqing Thursday to announce the decision on Bo’s sacking to local officials there.

From The Useless Tree, on whether or not this is the end of the facade of unity that has been an obsession of the Chinese government since Tiananmen:

For those of us who were around in 1989, one of the key factors that fueled the massive demonstrations that year was the split at the very top of the Chinese political hierarchy, a difference of opinion on how to deal with the students in Tiananmen Square. Roughly, Zhao Ziyang seemed to be seeking some sort of compromise, while Li Peng took a harder line. That difference ultimately led to the failure of the first deployment of military power in May and the eventual downfall of Zhao. Since then it appears that everyone at the top of the political order, especially the Politburo, learned the same lesson: if they let internal differences spill out into the public they could face another crisis of 1989 proportions.

The fix might be in for Zhang: he takes over this duty for now (running the massive conglomerate of Chongqing, for which he seems unsuited), and in return he will move up to the Standing Committee later this fall. And, by some calculations, that might preserve a certain balance among various factions at the top (“Pincelings” v. Communist Youth League veterans v. regional interests, etc.).

And yet… the abruptness and publicity of Bo’s fall might open the door to new, more divisive, political tactics at the top. And if that happens, the lessons of 1989 may go by the wayside.

And still another possibility: Bo’s fall is limited and the broader political damage thus contained. Thus far, he has lost his leadership positions in Chongqing. He is still a member of the Politburo. Although it seems less likely now that he will be promoted to the highest leadership level of the Standing Committee, it may be the case that he does not fall any further politically. Maybe he remains on the Politburo and gains some other sort of position, not as prominent as the leader of Chongqing, but neither as low as some prefecture in Qinghai.

From the CSM:

His prospects had been dimmed since bloggers revealed five weeks ago – in posts supported by photographs – that Bo’s hand-picked police chief and right-hand man, Wang Lijun, had been escorted by police away from the US consulate in Chengdu.

Whether he went to the consulate seeking asylum or for another purpose has not been disclosed. But rather than blacking out all news of the scandal, local and national officials fed it, announcing first that Mr. Wang was undergoing “vacation style medical treatment” and then revealing that Wang had spent a whole night at the consulate and was under investigation.

President Hu Jintao was widely reported last week as describing Wang as a “traitor,” which bode ill for his mentor, and on Wednesday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao banged the last nail into Bo’s coffin with some blunt criticism of his political rival at a press conference – an extremely unusual public assault on a fellow leader.

Finally, the China Media Project has a post about how the news has spread in China:

In wire copy so austere it seemed to supply the epitaph for the political saga of the charismatic “princeling” Bo Xilai (薄熙来), China’s Xinhua News Agency reported today that Bo would no longer serve as the top leader of Chongqing.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether mainstream Chinese media will attempt deeper coverage of Bo Xilai and the Wang Lijun incident — or for that matter, the Cultural Revolution, given Wen Jiabao’s remarks yesterday.

Until then, the discussion will have to happen on Chinese social media, where for most of the day “Bo Xilai” has been one of the top-trending topics.

But as everyone is pouncing on this story as an illustration of internal Party struggles over the future and the 18th Party Congress, let’s not forget that it is also about the past. Bo Xilai has symbolized nostalgia over the Maoist era, and many on China’s left have been supportive of this.

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“Bo Xilai replaced as Chongqing chief”

Whoa- Twitter just exploded with the news that Bo has been ousted, in one of the most extreme falls from grace in recent Chinese history. From FT:

Bo Xilai, the maverick Chinese politician, who until recently was a frontrunner for promotion to the highest decision-making body of the ruling Communist party, has been removed from his position as party secretary of Chongqing municipality.

The decision to remove Mr Bo was announced internally to senior officials on Wednesday night, immediately after the close of the annual 10-day session of China’s rubber stamp parliament, people familiar with the matter said.

There’ll definitely be more on this over the next few days.

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“Bo keen to prove his loyalty”

South China Morning Post is one of a few media outlets who seem to be rolling back expectations that Bo Xilai is out for good:

Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai has held a second municipal party meeting in two weeks to underscore the importance of upholding Beijing’s policies, in a sign the embattled party boss might have waded through the recent political storm that hit the southwestern municipality.

On February 12, Bo held a party meeting that focused on advancing “scientific development”. Both meetings were covered prominently by local media. Neither of the two meetings featured a word about the municipality’s crackdown on organised crime, nor did they promote revolutionary songs – two of Bo’s signature campaigns that help define the so-called Chongqing model.

Zhang said Bo’s public appearances indicated Beijing may have already forgiven him. Bo, considered a “princeling” because his father was a revolutionary veteran, “is unlikely to be punished harshly by Communist Party leaders”, Zhang added.

Johnny Lau Yui-siu, a Hong Kong-based China-watcher, agreed.

“Bo may not be able to hold a spot at the Politburo Standing Committee but his political life will continue unless he encounters a serious conflict with higher officials,” he said.

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Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun Post-Mortem

The Economist, NYT, and Epoch Times all have pieces on the fallout from Wang Lijun in Chengdu, respectively:

There remains little doubt that Mr Xi will take over from Hu Jintao as party chief at a five-yearly congress to be held sometime in the autumn. But the prospects of another aspirant to top office, Bo Xilai (pictured above), have been overshadowed. On February 6th his one-time right-hand man, Wang Lijun, fled to the American consulate in the city of Chengdu. Mr Wang stayed inside for a day before walking out into the hands of Chinese security officials, who are believed to have taken him to Beijing.

Until recently, Mr. Bo’s tenure in Chongqing had seemed brilliant. For most of his political ascent, Mr. Bo relied on his father, Bo Yibo, a revolutionary war leader who died only in 2007. As the offspring of a top-ranking official, or “princeling,” he is part of a network of people who can bypass normal channels, both for personal and political gain.

Mr. Bo used these connections to carry out a series of populist changes in Chongqing. Once the wartime capital of China, it was expanded in the 1990s into a small, mostly rural province with a metropolis at its center.

He vowed to double the region’s urban population to 20 million by the end of the decade. And he oversaw a pilot program to award millions of farmers urban residency and built hundreds of thousands of low-rent apartments to lure them, although local experts say his underlings have relied heavily on coercion.

Another of Mr. Bo’s initiatives was a much-publicized campaign to revive Mao-era songs and ideology. He also made populist promises to double rural incomes and took on foreign companies like Wal-Mart, burnishing his credentials with people wary of the influence of multinational corporations in China.

Most famously, he attacked the triads, mafia-type groups that for decades arbitrated disputes and squeezed ordinary citizens.

To attack the triads, Mr. Bo hired Mr. Wang, an official he had known from an earlier posting. Mr. Wang had a reputation for courage — he had personally stormed a hotel and arrested a crime boss after knocking him cold with an uppercut — but also for brutality. In one case reported in the Chinese news media, he was so enraged that a pedicab driver had had the temerity to be run over by his white Mercedes that he leapt out, beat the man and had him detained for 15 days on a traffic violation.

Some mainland scholars have even said that Bo can still make it into the Politburo Standing Committee during the 18th People’s Congress, making it seem like nothing has happened.

This is definitely not possible; there are at least five forces that want to take out Bo Xilai:

First, the men who initiated this incident will not give up.
Second, the international community will not be silent.
Third, because of the spreading of anti-blocking software that can circumvent China’s Internet blockade, many Chinese already know the crimes and lies behind Bo’s Chongqing model—the Chinese regime cannot conceal this any longer.
Fourth, after things have gotten to this point, Bo himself does not want to be part of the Politburo Standing Committee anymore.
The last force against Bo is the combined opposition of CCP head Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Remember, Epoch Times is run by the Falun Gong, which has any number of reasons to hate CCP leaders- but they lay out their case in the article.

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“Power Struggle in China”

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.

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