Bo Xilai and the Dead Laowai

There has been so much written in the past 48 hours on the unbelievable twists and turns of the Bo Xilai catastrophe that it’s been hard to keep up. At the moment I feel I have little to add to the trainwreck. But my friend Jeremiah has a lot to add and has written a masterful post that manages to wrap it all up in a way that will make you laugh out loud. It’s over at my new favorite China blog, which you should all have on your blogrolls and RSS feeds.

I’ll have a real post up soon. I am finishing my Big Project that I’ll be able to tell all of you about in the early Fall. I am also having some family issues, namely a sick relative who is requiring my near-constant attention. I hate to see no posts on the Duck for 12 days in a row, since in the old days I would put up as many as five posts a day. Please be patient, and sorry to disappoint with my silence.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 13 Comments

“‘state media’ is nothing but an enormous firehose of steaming donkey shit.”

Thanks for the heads up. That was one funny read.

April 12, 2012 @ 3:27 am | Comment

.

中共賣國 —

黃金坪島
綢緞島
黑瞎子島
庫頁島
海參威
外興安嶺
江東六十四屯
唐努烏梁海
江心坡
南坎
白龍尾島
蘇岩礁
弹丸礁
黄岩島
中業島
藏南
釣魚島
琉球群島
蒙古

.

April 12, 2012 @ 9:24 am | Comment

Above – a list of territories lost/still to be recovered by the CCP, including Mongolia.

@Richard – Sorry to hear about your troubles.

RE: the Bo case. The basic lesson for foreigners in China here is that expats should stay away from the CCP. Like one guy who ended up spending years of his life in jail during the cultural revolution said: “he who goes out on a limb should listen for the sound of the saw”. This goes for media outlets like CRI as well – kids, it might look like a cool thing to do, but just say no.

April 12, 2012 @ 10:33 pm | Comment

Also sorry to hear about the family troubles, Richard – hope things are looking up for you.

But regarding Bo… so the ‘guilty’ verdict is already in, and the ziyoupai are basically shilling for the CCP and for the current Chinese legal system now?

No one finds it the least bit suspicious that the ‘new evidence’ on the Heywood case has arrived four months after the poor man was sent to the retort, just before the power transition in the Politburo? Or that none of his family (including his wife, his sister, his mother) suspected any foul play at all after his death was originally reported? Or that it took the Guardian to report on poor Mr Heywood’s family history of heart failure and early death?

Mr Jenne’s blog post may have come off the more trenchant, though, if he wasn’t also busy lapping up the donkey shit from the firehose when it suits the way he wants to paint Gu Kailai (‘Bo Gu’ Kailai, my big fat laowai arse – what is this, did Taiwan take over the mainland when I wasn’t looking?). It’s quite clear to most Chinese observers (whom, he is right to note, have indeed lost faith in the official narrative) that this murder investigation is a thin veneer for a purely political vendetta, and that it is more than likely that an innocent woman or two will be put to death for crimes they didn’t commit. And the expat blogger community can probably be expected to treat it all either as a joke or as the Chinese version of the death of Princess Di, merely because she was married to (or worked for) a popular populist politician whose crime basically amounted to getting too big for his knickers.

For my own part, I think it’s kind of a sad day when Chinese nationalists start displaying better critical thinking skills with regard to their government than the liberal western observers who (oftentimes rightly) call them to task for not exercising them.

April 13, 2012 @ 3:20 am | Comment

“I think it’s kind of a sad day when Chinese nationalists start displaying better critical thinking skills with regard to their government than the liberal western observers who (oftentimes rightly) call them to task for not exercising them.”

Where is there evidence that this is happening?

April 13, 2012 @ 8:09 am | Comment

First off, everyone who describes Bo or the Chongqing Model as Maoist (or neo-Maoist) either doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about or is suffering from teapartyosis, a psychological disorder which causes the sufferer to perceive even modest Keynesian market-based redistribution and social welfare policies as the Second Coming of Stalin. (Libertarian commentator Justin Raimondo, no raving left-winger himself, perceived quite clearly that waving red flags around and singing patriotic songs in public does not a Maoist make.) And then the people who claim Bo’s downfall as some kind of victory for political reform in China are merely taking the self-delusion to the next level; I agree with Mr Jenne on this point at least, but all too many other ‘China watchers’ in, for example, the Washington Post, USA Today and even the Atlantic are claiming Bo’s removal and frame-up as some kind of victory for the people who want to see political reform.

Thankfully, the Chinese commentators on Weibo, even those who didn’t like Bo or his brand of politics, don’t appear to be so naive.

April 13, 2012 @ 12:49 pm | Comment

I would agree with the speculation that there is no real political reform at play here. Of course, with incomplete facts and complete innuendo courtesy of the CCP, it’s difficult to know what exactly is at play…apart from maybe the fact that Bo is now royally screwed.

What are the possibilities? Well, one is that Bo himself was a corrupt mess while pretending to be cleaning up the corrupt mess that was in Chongqing. And Wang going to the US consulate was the little draft that blew down Bo’s house of cards. What does it say about a political system when a top flight official can get away with murder unless and until someone commits a figurative +/- literal act of treason?

On the other hand, maybe this is a bunch of CCP heavyweights unsheathing their knives and going Caesar on Bo’s ass. And to complete the evisceration, they will now conjure up a bunch of fiction and utilize the CCP’s esteemed legal system to railroad him. What does it say about a political system when a bunch of head honchos are only one piece of bad news (Wang’s American Adventure) away from throwing one of their own under the bus?

It’s understandable to grasp at any straw and try to convince yourself that reform in the CCP is afoot, particularly since real, tangible, meaningful reform in the CCP is typically in such abundant supply. Doesn’t make it the right thing to do…but my oh my this is one juicy straw.

Personally, I don’t think Bo’s current quagmire says very much about the CCP’s potential or willingness for political reform. But I do think it speaks volumes about the CCP’s political system…and what a great system it is!

April 13, 2012 @ 2:16 pm | Comment

The most vocal Chinese nationalists, folks like Hu Xijn and Eric X Li and his crew, are claiming some sort of victory for rule of law in China. Rectified Names dispenses with that nonsense rather perfectly here.

I may have missed a story or two, but I have seen no serious claims made that this represents any kind of reform. Most are saying this shows why China needs reform.

I think the first thing we’ll learn is just how selective Bo’s anti-gangster campaign was, as victims and their lawyers start coming out of the woodwork with sordid stories, taking advantage of whatever window this scandal offers.

April 13, 2012 @ 7:58 pm | Comment

This strikes me as highly naive, even taking into account any ideological blinders and the difficulty of following Chinese politics from Rhode Island: “Bo Xilai, a confident breath of fresh and honest wind into a political culture characterised by secrecy, paranoia and opacity, has been effectively snuffed out by precisely the authoritarian structure he sought to challenge, hoisted upon precisely the political rhetoric he sought to make political hay from.”

April 13, 2012 @ 8:05 pm | Comment

PS – MFC, I know Hongkies who’ve a double-barrelled name after marriage (Anson Chan for example), but not Taiwanese. I always thought that was more of an HK thing.

April 13, 2012 @ 8:26 pm | Comment

@ slim: I don’t think I’ve made any attempt to hide my ideology, which I would describe as classical conservatism. I also don’t think I’ve made any attempt to hide my physical location, given the ‘Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh’ sidebar with the big boss with ‘Sigillam Dioecesis Pittsburgensis Conditae’ inscribed on it. I believe I may also have made a post or two on my blog from my buddy’s VPN when I interned in Beijing this past summer. But I do follow Renren, Weibo, TLN, as well as the expat blogs (even those I often disagree with) with regularity, which gives me about as broad a vantage point as a netizen living in China has. And the University of Pittsburgh has one of the fastest-growing Chinese exchange-student programmes in the country, which gives some insights into the perspective of, at least, educated and largely-coastal Chinese (including a couple from Chongqing who still have a fairly high regard for Mr Bo). That said, I admit I am at a great disadvantage when it comes to primary-source knowledge of China beyond them.

And I am also on record as saying that Bo Xilai’s symbolic attempts to graft Maoist kitsch onto his populist, left-liberal brand of politics were problematic at best – as we have seen, they were self-defeating, at least as far as the CCP is concerned. And I have no illusions about his having been a ruthless and dedicated self-promoter. But as far as political reform went, he did challenge the corruption in the local CCP, he did disclose private CCP files (including those of his predecessors in office) to the press, and he did advocate for multiparty elections (at a point in his career where such a statement was a much greater political risk than it would have been coming from, say, Wen Jiabao). He was no worse in terms of corruption than many another CCP functionary (particularly including his successor in Chongqing, Zhang Dejiang), but in terms of substantive policy stances, he was a fair sight better.

@ FOARP: Interesting. Well, I’ve only heard of Taiwanese married women doing that (and that was in a seminar on business etiquette in Taiwan vs the mainland), but it doesn’t surprise me that Hongkongers have the same custom.

April 13, 2012 @ 11:48 pm | Comment

@ slim (2): Oh, I see why you thought I was still in RI. I should probably keep my profile up-to-date more frequently. :P

April 13, 2012 @ 11:56 pm | Comment

I must say though..

Dead British of good background with no apparent permenent occupation

Said man lived life of luxory in foreign place

A pretty women (or many) involved

Shadowy deal, murder, coupe rumor.

Insert random James Bond joke here….

April 16, 2012 @ 4:17 pm | Comment

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