I was putting something together for the other thread in the Int Cell but it turned into a dissertation so Ive trimmed out the deep history and ask you to take on faith that this has its roots in the late 1970s and early Reform and Opening period.
How this has been playing itself out over the last year and a bit has been interesting not for its novelty value (it aint anything new) but in the public nature of the ideological struggle for the soul of the party. Theres a leadership handover coming up at the end of this year and while the focus has been on the Presidency and the expected ascendance of Xi Jinping, the key struggle has been on the elevation from membership of the Politburo to membership of the Politburo Standing Committee. The two main competing candidates were Wang Yang, Party Secretary of Guangdong Province and Bo Xilai, Party Secretary of Chongqing Municipality. Wang is slighty younger and Bos immediate predecessor in Chongqing while both of them were elevated to the Politburo in 2007. Thanks to the compulsory retirement age for officials and what are effectively unofficial MCPs for officials, Bo has far less time to climb to the top of the tree and hes made no real secret of his ambitions to get there.
The two have been involved in rather nasty tango since Bo reached his current post and immediately launched a high-profile anti-crime, anti-corruption campaign which effectively stuck up an enormous flag with the last bloke was a ****** on it. Wang on the other hand has tended to snipe in ideological terms, criticising the theoretical foundations of Bos approach. Hes an alumnus of the CYL but despite that has had his run-ins with the Beijing leadership for his hard-edged market-focussed lack of sympathy to the plight of SMEs in Guangdong. While Beijing would have preferred him to give some support to the small companies that form the majority of Chinas manufacturing base, his policy was to stuck two fiscal fingers up at anyone who couldnt navigate themselves out of trouble and it caused a great deal of social unrest. In the last year, hes taken a lot of flak for the fallout, with his policies being blamed for the lack of moral values exemplified in the Wang Yueyue case; and for the high-profile public unrest/rebellions at Wukan, Wanggang and Haimen. It was beginning to look like his chances of promotion were trashed, despite some nifty footwork in resolving the underlying issues in the latter three cases. But luck and some very discreet hardball can make an enormous difference.
Bos career, in contrast, seemed to be on an unstoppable upward trajectory. Hes frequently referred to in Western media circles as the PRCs first Western-style politician, which would be hilarious if it didnt betray such a superficial approach to their subject and a farcical understanding of his politics. Hes made his name with his sing Red and smash Black campaign, revitalising Red culture of the Maoist era while targeting organised crime and official corruption. It gained him a very vocal support amongst the municipalitys poor but attracted a great deal of criticism for a) digging up memories of the GPCR, something most Chinese over 40 remember all too well in Chongqing and b) for relying on dubiously-legal or even extra-legal methods to arrest prominent rich-types and seize their assets for municipal coffers.
As the result of some intense lobbying, in May last year a senior Law Professor from SJTU called Tong Zhiwei was asked to report on the situation in Chongqing and this produced some interesting results, such the extent to which Bos campaign relied on seized assets to offset the costs of lost production (as people were required to leave work to participate in red singing) and his extravagant beautification projects like planting thousands of Gingko trees along the roadsides despite them being spectacularly unsuited to the Sichuan climate. The latest figure is around 800m RMB over budget, which has really not endeared him to Beijing quite apart from stirring up a spectre of Maoism they thought theyd long since staked through the heart.
Where it starts to get interesting is where the Chongqing Chief of Police, Wang Lijun, gets involved. Wang was specifically recruited for the job by Bo, the pair having enjoyed a fairly close and productive relationship in an earlier period when Bo was Governor of Liaoning Province and Wang the Director of Public Security of Tieling City. Wang had himself a reputation as an effective thief-taker and theres no doubt about his physical courage on the job since being a copper in China has never been for the timid. There was some earlier indication that he might have taken bribes and his successor was arrested for similar, but it didnt interrupt his career until early this year when the Central Discipline Inspection Commission demoted him, usually a precursor to more serious punishments. Current speculation is that he offered to cut a deal with information about embezzlement in Bos family which would at the very least have stalled Bos plans to the Purple.
Predictably, Bo was less than chuffed and given his evident lack of scruple in using raw power would undoubtedly have had his own Henry II moment. Wang legged it to the US Consulate in Chengdu, also Sichuan Province and spent an afternoon there. The rumour mill has it that he was seeking asylum, but given how far inland and easily isolatable Chengdu is that would strike me as being either incredibly stupid or incredibly desperate. Hes not stupid and the sang froid with which he eventually left doesnt argue desperation. For my money, the key lies in who he surrendered to: he stayed put while the Consulate was surrounded by the local PSB (answerable to local officials) but walked willingly to the waiting arms of the PAP and Ministry of State Security (the Feds, both directly under the control of the State Council in Beijing). The possibilities mooted are that he offered either to trade evidence on Bo to Wangs supporters in return for protection or to trade silence to Bos supporters in Beijing in return for calling off the hitmen. That the PAP were accompanied by officers from the MSS leads me to believe the former more credible since the PAP on their own are accountable to one of Bos patrons.
Bo has since been removed from his post as Party Secretary and appointed as Chairman of the Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference, the body which oversees United Front work with the other political parties in China. Its a figurehead position with no political power and coupled with Premier Wens public labelling of him as a leftist (Chinese political shorthand for irresponsible radical wholl see us all dead in a ditch if we dont stamp his pish out toute suite) effectively kills his career stone dead. There is simply no way that the CCP will promote Bo to a senior position while they dont know what Wang told the Americans about him that they could use for leverage.
So, short of a miracle, hes a dead duck and when youre officially required to be atheist, miracles are in short supply unless you have friends in the Politburo and the appalling waxwork figure of Jiang Zemin and the Shanghai Clique waiting in the wings. Jiangs protégé, Zhou Yongkang, has made several attempts to salvage Bos career hopes for him, the latest resulting in a shouting match between himself and Wen at the last PSC meeting. Zhou is part of a latterday Gang of Three within the 9-man PSC, comprising himself, Jia Qinglin and Zeng Qinghong whore all Jiang protégés and supporters of Bo. A fourth Jiang man, He Guoqiang, interestingly changed sides and voted with Wen, leaving apparently-President-elect Xi Jinping to cast the deciding vote against Bo.
Since then, theres been a rapid purge of Bos influence and support. His replacement in Chongqing and that of Wang are both CYL-affiliated, television stations began showing commercials (banned under Bo) almost straight away and Red events have been cancelled in swathes; leftist websites have been shut down en masse; and according to (admittedly unreliable) internet scuttlebutt, the local cops are lifting anyone who publicly praises Bo or Red culture. The one remaining card in the hands of the Jiang Faction are Zhou Yongkangs control of the PAP whore an effective light infantry when they want to be. One of the annoying things about the reports coming out of Beijing now are that even Chinese people can have difficulty telling PAP and PLA apart while foreign reporters are regularly downright diabolical at it. Even the Epoch Times (US-based Falun Gong newspaper) is discrediting some of the photos posted on Sina Weibo, so its quite hard to tell whats going on.
Given that the weight of public opinion, Party opinion, political muscle and military force are behind Hu, Wen and Xi right now, it would come as a massive surprise to me if this were nothing more than a last desperate death rattle from the Jiang lot.
The information is mostly culled from open source materials - albeit some in Chinese - while the evaluations are entirely my own. You also need to factor in that I'm God's own China bore and soak that sort of thing up for fun (yeah I know - Life, 1, For the Living Of).
I've been following the career of Bo since he was appointed to Chongqing since he seemed a curiously retrograde political type for today's China and given his family history a very unusual candidate for that role to boot.
Well, CCTV is reporting that Zhou Yongkang didn't attend a national legal propaganda conference in Shanghai yesterday. Since he's Secretary of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee of the CCP Central Committee, that makes it look like he's pretty soundly****ed.
There may not be a coup, but there is some sort of a power struggle going on or so it appears, between hardliners and the pro market lot.
Could it have been brewing over time?
PLA and their supporters seem to be on their own if one accepts that the Chinese PM did not know that the PLA would unveil their Stealth aircraft when US Defence Secretary, Gates arrived to mend fences with China.
U.S. officials said President Hu appeared not to have heard of the test flight when Mr. Gates asked him about it in their meeting Tuesday, even after pictures and accounts of it had begun appearing online. China Stealth Jet Upstages Gates, Hu - WSJ.com
The Bo Xilal, a hardliner and a popular leader who was to enter the Politburo, has suddenly being brought down a few notches just before the CCP voted the new dispensation in. Add to it the mysterious visit of his confidante to the US Consulate just before Bo was 'disgraced'.
Then, Wen warning over the chance of another 'Cultural Revolution'.
From this morning's Cashin's Comments:
China Speech And A Word Of Warning - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao gave a speech yesterday and the Shanghai stock market got knocked for a loop (down 340 Dow equivalent points). The media feels that was due to his warning about housing. That may be but another part of the speech caught my eye.
Wen warned that major political change is needed lest the nation fall victim to another cultural revolution. Was this a slightly veiled reference to the recent actions and statements of that other Chinese leader, Party Leader Bo Xilai? Well try to do some research on that as its implications could be enormous. A power struggle in China is clearly not priced into world markets. Power Struggle May Be Brewing In China And The Markets Aren't Ready For It - Business Insider
And like before a major event as it was during Gates visit to China to mend fences the PLA making a statement by unveiling the Stealth aircraft, could it be that this is a 'PLA's statement' (link below) before the major shake down in the CCP?
That's over-egging the pudding a bit. The 'Two Conferences' (the National People's Congress and the Chinese Political Consultative Conference) are meeting and a higher than usual security presence is normal at those events. Given the recent bombings in Xinjiang and the possibility of the odd flammable Tibetan spoiling the love-in, heightened security would be entirely reasonable and Boxun's Youtube channel has been showing footage from Beijing of the heightened police presence for some weeks now.
I would go with Jin Zhong's analysis. When Premier Wen invoked the spectre of the Cultural Revolution a few days back, he wasn't talking about idealistic teenagers with unimaginative fashion sense and a limited taste in reading-matter. He was talking about a historical pattern whereby when elite power struggles fought to the death spill out into the public sphere, they're hijacked in the cause of old tensions, personal resentments, local gerrymandering and score-settling. One of Deng's unsung achievements is putting an end to 'you live, I die; I live, you die' politics.