Leaving China, Westernizing, Playing Victim, etc.

Update: Let’s add this to the thread. A very, very funny parody of the “why I’m leaving China” that seems in vogue at the moment.

Update 2: Wow.

This is an open thread to which I’d like to add a few links. I am late to this, but if you haven’t read Mark Kitto’s article on why he’s leaving China, do so now. I read it behind a pay wall more than a week ago and was blown away. Mark received some fame eight years ago when the magazine business he built from scratch was simply seized by the government, leaving him with no recourse. He only touches on that, a real act of badness, but it ties in with his other complaints about life in today’s China. (more…)

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Hong Kong Chinese Resist Having their Brains Laundered

UPDATE: You can see some wonderful photos of the demonstrations here.

Hong Kongers are demonstrating en masse as the CCP tries to shove down their throats a new student curriculum larded with Mainland propaganda. This is worse than the Creationist-modeled school curriculum instituted by the Texas Board of Education.

The new curriculum would be similar to the so-called patriotic education taught in mainland China. The materials, including a handbook entitled “The China Model,” describe the Communist Party as “progressive, selfless and united” and criticize multiparty systems, even though Hong Kong has multiple political parties.

Critics liken the curriculum to brainwashing and say that it glosses over major events like the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It will be introduced in some elementary schools in September and be mandatory for all public schools by 2016.

Talks between the education minister, Eddie Ng, and the National Education Parents’ Concern Group broke down on Saturday. Mr. Ng later denied that the curriculum was akin to brainwashing.

One demonstrator, Elaine Yau, who was there with her 7-year-old daughter, said that people wanted a say in what was taught in the schools. “We feel like we have no choice,” she said.

One point of contention is that many of the city’s governing elite send their children to the West or to expensive foreign-run international schools, which will be exempt from the national education. The curriculum will be mandatory for the public schools used by most of the working and middle classes.

This part then took the cake. Leave it to a pro-Beijing official to say exactly the wrong thing.

Before the protest, Jiang Yudui of the pro-Beijing China Civic Education Promotion Association of Hong Kong added fuel to the fire when he told Hong Kong’s residents that the curriculum should “wash their brains.”

“A brain needs washing if there is a problem, just as clothes need washing if they’re dirty, and a kidney needs washing if it’s sick,” he said, according to the local news media.

In response, protesters waved flags showing a cartoon brain with a line crossed through it. “No thought control! Preserve one country, two systems!” they chanted, referring to the agreement that gives Hong Kong political rights that are not allowed on the mainland.

So there we have it. The dirty brains of Hong Kong kids need a little washing. At least he admits it. Big congratulations to the 32,000 HKers who care enough to demonstrate in public over it. Of course, the pro-Beijing leaders are saying their decision is irrevocable no matter how many citizens take to the streets. I see this as ominous, vile and dictatorial. I can’t imagine Hong Kong ever cooperating, even if it becomes the law.

Some of us really believed there would be one country and two systems. We seem to have been wrong, though we knew that many years ago.

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Global Times on the Wenzhou train crash, one year later

I was (am) always curious about the seemingly opposing forces at the Global times. Often I was amazed at how far they would go allowing commentators to criticize the CCP, even columns mocking China’s navy and arguing it was hardly ready to participate in any conflict in the South China Sea. So many examples like that. There was a 2009 op-ed praising Deng Yujiao, the karaoke waitress in Badong who stabbed a lascivious government official to death. And a lot more. These were balanced, of course, with xenophobic outbursts, sabre rattling and incredibly paranoid/irrational arguments about the West and the Western media. But still….I was amazed at what got past the censors at what the censors let through. But I never doubted that it was strategic. Nothing got through by accident. Give the people some space to vent, as long as they never cross the line, the fat red line between acceptable criticism and advocating for democracy or for greater freedom in Tibet or for referring to a massacre in 1989.

I wondered about this same thing tonight as I read this piece on the one-year anniversary of the Wenzhou train crash. It’s actually a damn good article; it’s real journalism. Paragraphs like these just pop out at me:

At the scene of the accident, wreaths for the deceased have been removed, memorial poems written on the viaduct pillar have been scrubbed off and there are no signs of the crash. Everything seems to show life has returned to normal. But the local villagers still remember the tragedy vividly.

“I will never forget that night, even now when there’s a thunderstorm and lightning, I am little worried about the viaduct, and worry that such accidents will happen again,” a local resident, who refused to disclose his full name, told the Global Times.

And then there’s this:

Although boasting one of the fastest high-speed trains in the world, the way the Ministry of Railways (MOR) disposed of the wreckage and delayed the results of an investigation into the crash sparked public fury and widespread doubt as to the wisdom of the massive investment in high-speed railways….

Though unwilling to discuss the past, Wang Jian still complained about the MOR. “After the memorial service, the MOR officials fled and have never contacted us ever since. The investigation result was delayed, and the complete name list of all the passengers on the trains has still never been released,” he said.

“The MOR did punish someone, but nobody was even jailed,” Wang complained.

This doesn’t sound like state-controlled propaganda. But maybe it is; maybe it’s doing exactly what the party wants it to do, placing the blame on a specific group of bunglers. I honestly don’t know. The one thing I always thought when I read articles like this, hypercritical of the government, was that it somehow fit within the approved party discourse — that the government was willing to let the media go this far and even encouraged it to do so in some instances, especially when reporting on corruption and local malfeasance.

Is this an example of opening up and greater freedom of the press? Or is it the same old propaganda, disguised as a watchdog media, that is actually planting exactly the stories the government wants it to? I wonder.

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The Great Democracy Debate

How many times have we discussed whether China would be better off with some form of democracy as opposed to its one-party authoritarian system? I know, too many times. But this article on the recent debate between CCP apologist and shill Eric Li and professor of government Minxin Pei is well worth reading. If you don’t believe me about Li being a shill, or if you are unfamiliar with him, read this. This is one of my favorite of Li’s assertions:

China is on a different path. Its leaders are prepared to allow greater popular participation in political decisions if and when it is conducive to economic development and favorable to the country’s national interests, as they have done in the past 10 years.

However, China’s leaders would not hesitate to curtail those freedoms if the conditions and the needs of the nation changed. The 1980s were a time of expanding popular participation in the country’s politics that helped loosen the ideological shackles of the destructive Cultural Revolution. But it went too far and led to a vast rebellion at Tiananmen Square.

That uprising was decisively put down on June 4, 1989. The Chinese nation paid a heavy price for that violent event, but the alternatives would have been far worse.

The resulting stability ushered in a generation of growth and prosperity that propelled China’s economy to its position as the second largest in the world.

For a marvelous take-down of this drivel go here. As if all of China’s great progress rests firmly on the shoulders of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Anyway, sorry for that digression, but you have to know who Li is to appreciate this debate.

I’ve always been careful to say I don’t believe Western-style democracy would necessarily be the answer to China’s problems of corruption, human rights violations, and the injustices inherent to any one-party system that operates without the checks of rule of law. Pei makes a strong argument, however, that the huge political and economic challenges China is facing are weakening the government and will ultimately result in an “unraveling” of the one-party system. So China should have a democratic infrastructure in place if the party implodes. In a nutshell:

The economy has been driven primarily by investments at home and exports to developed countries, which isn’t sustainable. In the political sphere, we’re seeing manifestations of a fundamental vulnerability of one-party systems globally: a tendency to drift into benefiting a relatively small, and ultimately predatory, elite at the expense of society generally, and the associated phenomena of high-level corruption and inequality.

Together, Pei claimed, these two domains of contradiction tend to impede the growth of China’s economy and undermine the legitimacy of its government. You can see the last two decades as a story of the rise of the Chinese system, Pei said; but the next 10 to 15 years (no less than 10, no more than 15) will be one of the system’s unraveling. And this is what the United States and the West generally need to worry about — not China’s strength but its weakness, because when the transition to a more democratic system comes, it will be very difficult to manage, particularly given the country’s deep ethnic divisions, its disputed borders, and its complex integration with the global economy.

Li’s arguments are familiar: all of China’s mistakes have been dwarfed by its accomplishments, the party has put China on a long trajectory of growth and it would be insane to shift gears when the current system is working, Western democracies are thrown into chaos by politics and therefore can’t get things done, etc. Pei argues that by clinging to an unrepresentative system of government, China may be on a path to collapse should the economy falter dramatically, and having no other alternative to the CCP political bedlam could ensue. A comparison to the collapse of the Soviet Union is not inconceivable.

Li showed his true stripes several times, and he was proud of them. This was one of my favorites:

In response to a question from the audience, Li also criticized the very ideas of political liberty and individual rights. Unless you think rights come from God, he insisted, you really have no theory of why any one view of political liberty any discrete set of individual rights should be sacrosanct at all. “If they’re from men, they’re not absolute; they can be negotiated.” It was only too bad there wasn’t time to discuss what “negotiated” means here.

“I want to break the spell of the so-called right to freedom of speech,” he added later. “Speech is act. It has harmed from time immemorial.”

It’s too bad he sounds like such an apologist. Some of his arguments are fair. We all know how well China has done compared to 30 years ago. I believe the CCP has to be given a lot of credit for improving the quality of the lives of so many of its citizens, and wonder whether its people are ready for pluralism. But who gets to decide that? And if the people so adore the CCP, why do Li and other shills so strongly oppose free elections? And if the government is so confident in China’s future, why are so many party elites moving their assets out of China? Li got kind of tongue-tied over that one.

Anyway, read the whole thing. Nothing new, exactly, but thought provoking. And you really are left wondering what the answer is. Neither Pei’s nor Li’s answers are totally convincing and it’s hard for me to say who “won.”

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Soft Power

I’ve already posted about how much I love this new blog. Go now and read their ominously hilarious post about how China manages to shoot itself in the foot whenever it comes to its neverending quest for soft power. An example is a business conference in the city of Leeds that gave a speaking slot to the king of jackals, the Dalai Lama. China’s leader were not amused. As is so often the case, they resort to threats, a very poor strategy in the quest for soft power around the world. They did the same with Norway after Liu Xiaobao won the Nobel Peace Prize and they still do). Rectified.Name comments:

But today an op-ed appeared in the nationalist rag The Global Times which made it quite clear that anybody who messes with China’s dignity should expect a flaming bag of cat hurled in the general direction of their front door sometime in the very near future:

“They must pay the due price for their arrogance. This is also how China can build its authority in the international arena. China doesn’t need to make a big fuss because of the Dalai or a dissident, but it has many options to make the UK and Norway regret their decision.”

You get the idea.

This is China at its soft power worst, scoring goals in its own net and making it exponentially harder to convince the rest of the world that the country is being run by grown-ups.

Need further proof? Take the case of the new documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, produced by Alison Klayman. It’s gotten some decent buzz at Sundance and other stops on the festival circuit, but that wasn’t sufficient for the Chinese government who apparently want EVERYBODY to go see this movie.

Faced with the possibility of appearing at the same film festival as Klayman’s documentary, a Chinese delegation, including representatives from CCTV, pulled out of a planned appearance rather than validate the promoter’s decision to…I don’t know, show films. Anybody not high from inhaling industrial solvents could have predicted what happened next, because as sure as cows shit hay the festival organizers then called a press conference, chastised the Chinese delegation, and reaped a bonanza of free publicity for their festival, Ai Weiwei, Klayman and her film.

Seriously, if the powers that be really wanted to kill this film they’d have SARFT publicly give the documentary its seal of approval.

“Many options.” That is really scary.

I really would like to write a post praising the CCP for its soft policy efforts. They seem to try so hard, but then they seem to try even harder to offend just about everyone. I see so many glimmers of hope, and then they just switch the lights off. There’s a way to express your dissatisfaction without sounding like a snarling bully. Why do they keep getting soft power all wrong? It’s not just that they fail at establishing soft power, it’s that they create exactly the opposite effect from what they set out to achieve.

For bloggers on China, this is a gift that keeps on giving. Same story over and over again, each time with some added bells and whistles. This is supposed to be a government run by engineers employing scientific methods to solve the country’s myriad problems, and in many ways they’ve done a damn good job. Why can’t they apply this scientific approach to the pursuit of soft power instead of setting the laboratory on fire everytime they try?

Update: Be sure to read this one, too!

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Censorship Directives from the “Ministry of Truth”

China Digital Times has collected a series of directives from what Chinese journalists, in true Orwellian fashion, have dubbed the “Ministry of Truth.” These guideline start with the death of Chinese activist Li Wangyang who recently “died” in police custody and has made international headlines. This and other topics are off limits in China:

Regarding the news of Li Wangyang’s death in Shaoyang, Hunan and the foreign media reaction: all media outlets must without exception refrain from granting interviews, reporting or commenting, and must not reprint relevant information from foreign media and websites….

Central Propaganda Department: Yili Milk Powder and Shaanxi Forced Abortion

Regarding heavy metals found in certain batches of Yili Brand milk powder and the seven-month pregnant women in Yuping Village, Cengjia Town, Zhenping County, Ankang City, Shaanxi Province who underwent forced labor: if any media outlet reports on these stories, only Xinhua News Agency’s wire copy may be used. Do not hype these stories, do not exaggerate them, and do not offer in-house reporting or commentary….

Central Propaganda Department: India Arrests Eight Chinese Citizens

According to the Indian media, on June 12 Indian police arrested eight Chinese nationals. No media outlet may report or comment on either this or related incidents, nor may any reprint relevant information or commentary from foreign media and websites.

Back and forth, A freer press, a more restricted press. Nothing new. It even reminds me of some memos I’ve seen distributed by the masters at Fox News telling their “journalists” to cover Republican-related scandals with kid gloves while going after Democrats with everything they’ve got, slanderous or not. The difference is Fox News is not America’s monolithic overseer of the media and cannot dictate what all media in the country can and cannot cover.

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Public Opinion in China Does Not Reflect the Public

A new Global Times editorial expresses deep concern that too much public opinion on the Internet is negative, and fails to reflect how much most of the public actually appreciates the government. (Remember, according to a Pew Research poll some 86 percent of Chinese are happy with the direction their government is taking.)

Opinions expressed on the Internet have shown an increasing tendency of going to the extreme, pressuring those wanting to speak to either criticize the political system or remain silent. The pressure is obvious, given the volume of opinion leaders on the Internet. Dissidents have to be careful in voicing their views.

Freedom of speech has long faced restrictions, first under the powerful control of the government. Now, restrictions from the government are gradually in retreat, especially at where academics gather, such as universities. But pressure from public opinion is rising quickly.

Criticism is seemingly the main tone of cyber opinion. To many, everything in real life is negative, thus every word they utter is full of aggravation. Mainstream society obviously has different opinions of people’s lives since most people have benefited from the country’s progress.

This problem of negative thoughts needs to be addressed. Public opinion needs to be molded by those who know better. Whingers and perennial critics of the government are gaining the upper hand, and they need to be countered. What better way than to form a government-appointed panel of experts with the specific mantra of making sure the Internet reflects how happy the Chinese really are?

It is already hard to speak the truth in China. Now this difficulty is facing new challenges. China needs a group of courageous scholars to speak out against unhealthy public opinion, helping to build a value system in accordance with China’s reality.

Cyber space has come to dominate China’s public opinion, but its value orientation is distanced from real life society. The government needs to reflect. With its influence over public opinion decreasing, certain powerful parts of the public will naturally take up a greater share.

Truth is particularly valuable to today’s country. Truth should be based on facts, and should reflect real diversity. But the truth now is twisted. It needs the participation of a wide scope of scholars to reverse it.

Truth needs to presented within the range of the Party discourse. It’s gotten way out of hand, twisted by dissidents who suddenly have a broad platform to subvert it. Luckily the Party is considering solutions to stem the tide. Luckily, a group of scholars can determine for us what’s true and what isn’t. And lest we forget, “Dissidents have to be careful in voicing their views.”

Let me just add, nearly all the posts about government on Twitter and Facebook, as on Weibo, are critical. That’s what impels most Netizens to speak out. The Internets would be pretty boring if it was stuffed with tweets and posts about how happy people are with their government. It would also not reflect the truth, that people have issues with their government, in China and everywhere else.

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Foreign Devils

Update: I want to take back a part of this post. I wrote the Nazi comparison in great haste, and I probably shouldn’t have, because Nazi is such a super-charged word. Anyone reading the text will see I am not saying Chinese people are like Nazis, and actually say the opposite: “Let me add, however, that while most gullible Germans ate this up, I strongly believe most Chinese are going to reject the race baiting that is setting the Internets ablaze today.” The Chinese will react responsibly and not like Nazis. What I thought was comparable was the use of race-baiting terms like “foreign trash” and sstereotyping many foreigners as spies, law breakers and enemies of China. Racial stereotyping was what I was alluding to. But in retrospect, I should have avoided that term and should have know that its use would be misunderstood by many.

Scapegoats are marvelous tools for energizing the masses. Especially when they are based on race. Der Stuermer, an Nazi rag published by Julius Streicher, often depicted images of grotesquely stereotyped Jews (big noses, fiendish) molesting pure, young beautiful German maidens. It was a successful campaign. Many really believed this was what Jews were, what they did. And it was a conspiracy, designed to pollute German blood and tear down German greatness. Let me add, however, that while most gullible Germans ate this up, I strongly believe most Chinese are going to reject the race baiting that is setting the Internets ablaze today. They are too suspicious of their government at the moment and are getting good at seeing through the government’s propaganda.

Although comparisons with Nazis are used too frequently and can induce groans, it’s nevertheless the first thing I thought of as I read the appalling call by Yang Rui, host of CCTV 9′s popular show Dialogue, calling in violent language for the ouster of “foreign thugs” from China’s sacred soil. This was brought on by two disgusting incidents of foreigners acting like idiots, even rapists, one attempting to molest a Chinese woman, another treating a Chinese woman on a train like scum. Shameful. Sickening. As vile as a crime can be. But these two sorry incidents are being used as red meat by the likes of Yang to rally the masses and breed hatred of all foreigners, even if Yang doesn’t say that in so many words. In his words:

The Public Security Bureau wants to clean out the foreign trash: To arrest foreign thugs and protect innocent girls, they need to concentrate on the disaster zones in [student district] Wudaokou and [drinking district] Sanlitun. Cut off the foreign snake heads. People who can’t find jobs in the U.S. and Europe come to China to grab our money, engage in human trafficking and spread deceitful lies to encourage emigration. Foreign spies seek out Chinese girls to mask their espionage and pretend to be tourists while compiling maps and GPS data for Japan, Korea and the West. We kicked out that foreign bitch and closed Al-Jazeera’s Beijing bureau. We should shut up those who demonize China and send them packing.”

[Note: I am having serious problems with the GFW and my VPN is making it hellish for me to supply links. This is from the Shanghaiist.]

Just last week friends began warning me to carry my passport at all times, as the PSB was stopping foreigners randomly, especially around Western hangouts like Sanlitun, to make sure they hadn’t overstayed their visa. Papers please. This all smells like a concerted campaign.

China Geeks has some excellent analysis and translations of weibo users’ reactions to this nonsense, and makes a strong argument that all foreigners should boycott Dialogue. I have at least four friends who have appeared on the program, and I really think they need to reconsider. After you read Charlie’s post you’ll have to agree. [Again, sorry but I can't link.]

An interesting moment to be in China. Something seems to be in the air, an extreme edginess brought on by doubts about the government and concern for China’s future. I’ve never heard so many Chinese people tell me they oppose their government, even hate it. Obviously that’s not scientific, but my expat friends agree. China almost seems on the brink, unable to control its dialogue (no pun intended) and floundering in the wake of recent embarrassments we all know about. Rifts and fissures are becoming more apparent, and there’s a sense that “something’s got to give.” Will it?

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Beijing

That’s where I am now, and shortly after I landed I remembered all the things I love and hate about it. Not that I ever really forgot. And I definitely love it more than I hate it. But there were the usual frustrations.

Like when my taxi driver dropped me off at the hotel from the airport and drove away without giving me my change. It was only ten kuai, but still.

I decided to make this a budget trip and booked my hotel reservation at Ru Jia at Jiaodaokou. I stayed there with Lisa several months ago and we liked it. What’s not to like for 248 kuai a night at a good location? Alas, this time the main building was occupied and they sent me to a room in an ancillary building. I knew the second I stepped into the room that I was in trouble. It smelled like a toilet. A chinese toilet. And I mean it. The bathroom door was shut and when I opened it it was like being punched in the gut. The toxic vapors, freed by the opening door, soon permeated the room. I went to the front desk and they switched me to the room next door that was even worse, if such is possible. A lady from housekeeping came in and sprayed the room with a Chinese version of Glade, and for a few minutes the stench of human waste was replaced by a sickly lemony scent that soon dissipated and left the room with the same ungodly odor. I knew I had to leave.

Thank God my Chinese friend Ben had met me at the hotel.He recommended a place down the street, Green Tree Inn on Fangjia Hutong near Yonghegong, where I quickly checked in and was assigned a comfortable if spartan room with no foul smell. It was a haven. And it was even cheaper than Ru Jia. For those traveling budget I highly recommend it, and its environment is super-cool, surrounded by coffee shops and bars that in a few months will no doubt turn into another commercialized Nanluoguxiang. But for now, it’s wonderful.

The best thing about Beijing for me is always the people, both my Chinese and foreigner friends. There is nothing like them in Phoenix, I’m afraid. Brilliant, funny, generous, it’s for them that I always return to Beijing, and each time I’m with them I wonder how I could possibly have left China. Actually, back in America I think about it every day.

We all get used to China’s miserably slow, restrictive, ultra-paranoid Internet, but each time I come back it’s something of a shock. It is slower than ever, and my proxy only makes it seem slower yet. Sometimes you want to throw your PC against the wall.

Tonight I went to the gorgeous National Theater to see the opera La Boheme performed by a Korean company. The audience was largely Korean as well. I have absolutely nothing against Koreans, but I had never sat with them in a opera before. They talked through the performance, rummaged through crinkling plastic bags, giggled, got up and walked around… The Chinese and Westerners in the audience were outraged, and an usher finally came in and told them to shut up. Seriously, it was that bad. I paid a lot for these seats, and the performance was ruined. At one point, a Korean boy sitting in front of me simply stood up on his seat and started shouting at his mother, who did nothing to discourage him. I simply didn’t understand it. I’ve been to many operas with a Chinese audience and never saw anything like this. Luckily the performance was good enough to drown out the din of talk and laughter. But I, and many around me, were infuriated. I turned around a one point and stage-whispered “Shut Up!” to little avail.

As always, I love the youth and vitality and vibrancy of the city, the irrepressible attitude of the people. I loved less so the stacks of garbage on the alleys around my first hotel, and the usual Beijing oddities that make it Beijing, but all in all I am more enthralled than taken aback.

I had no definite purpose in coming. The city simply beckons me since it is in so many ways my home. That’s never gone away. I’ll strengthen my network, go on some interviews, and pursue some opportunities related to the project I’ve been working on for several months, the one that keeps me from blogging like I used to. For all the aggravation, I am very glad I came. There’s no place like home.

I’m going to be rushed, but if anyone wants to meet up please tell me and I’ll see what I can do. And now, as the lingering jet lag and the strain of a long day come together, I think I’ll pass out. If anything of interest transpires I’ll be sure come back and let you know.

Disclaimer: This post was written in a vintage jet lag/exhaustion stupor. Hope I am not flush with embarrassment when I see it in the morning.

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Guest Post: A Death In Chongqing

[Note: this post is cross-posted (with light editing) from the FOARP blog, and does not necessarily reflect anyone's views other than my own. All errors are mine - Gil]

[Note from Richard: This guest post does not necessarily reflect my own views.]
 

Bo Xilai, disgraced politburo member

From my seat in a delightfully pretentious health-food restaurant (think Shanghai’s Element Fresh, but Polish) thousands of miles from Chongqing I do not have much to add to analysis of the various goings on in the PRC Politburo, but I would like to draw attention to a few articles which, to me, strike the right cord, as well as adding a little barely-informed speculation of my own.

I think Sinostand’s points – that the only remarkable things about the Bo case are that it involves the death of a laowai and that Bo’s wrongdoings, unlike those of other senior officials, have been acknowledged by the government – are very much correct. Had Bo Xilai been less obviously ambitious and more easily believable as a politburo bit-player, then it is impossible to believe that these accusations of corruption would have been directed against him.

The involvement of a foreigner in this case comes a long way second in this. It is very hard to believe that the investigation into Neil Heywood’s death would have been “reinvestigated” (was it investigated the first time?) if Bo was not in disfavour. The fact that the investigation only followed what we must now call the “Chengdu incident” (Wang Lijun’s apparent attempted defection), which itself came at a convenient time to ensure that Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang’s main rival for the top spot was out of the way ahead of their coronation at the “Two Meetings”, strongly suggests that it is part of an attempt to make Bo’s name mud.

Incidentally, it also leaves a strong suspicion (in my mind at least) that Neil Heywood may not have been murdered. Indeed, I would not at all be surprised if, like the investigation into Ai Weiwei for tax evasion, the investigation was wound up without actually resulting in criminal charges. Since the China has the death penalty for murder (and many other crimes – including corruption), it would not at all be surprising if China’s ruling class wished to avoid a trial ending in the execution of a former politburo member or his wife. It is also hard to believe that the British government will wish to press an issue which, for them, there is no up-side to.

The second article I would like to draw attention to is Jeremiah Jenne’s latest post on Rectified.name. Jeremiah is definitely correct to say that the impact of this case will be that, in future, people will be far more willing to believe rumours about the various goings on of those in power now that so many of the initial rumours surrounding the “Chengdu Incident” have been confirmed by the PRC state media. A lot of people, myself included, had been inclined to pooh-pooh the Weibo rumour machine – particularly after the fiasco surrounding last year’s supposed death of Jiang Zemin, which I was also initially taken in by. Reporting on rumours in China, so long as they are clearly marked as such, seems A-OK to me.

There’s also a couple of lessons in this for China expats and China watchers:

- Stay away from the CCP and its affairs. I always get a sinking feeling when I hear of an expat going to work for the Chinese government, be it in a state media organ like China Radio International, or in some other capacity. A foreign passport is no protection against CCP shenanigans and you cannot expect your own government to press too hard when there are no immediate national interests in doing so. The line I was told in Nanjjing in 2003 about it being much worse to be falsely accused of spying than to be accurately accused of spying, since no government will be willing to arrange an exchange for a non-spy, remains very true.

- The essential political system of the People’s Republic of China is still Leninist – that is to say, power is still reserved to a ‘revolutionary vanguard party’ exercising ‘democratic centralism’, or in plain language, a one-party dictatorship. Since 1989 it has been common for governing teams to serve a ten-year term, but this is in no way set in stone. If at any point it suits the top leadership of the CCP to give someone the shove this will be done regardless of public opinion or position – popular or not, seemly or not, and any weapon that can be used against them will be used – including, perhaps, allegations of murder.

Finally, Boxun (a Chinese emigre rumour-mill) is now carrying rumours (there’s that word again) that Zhou Yongkang, the PRC Politburo’s main enforcer, is next in line for attitude-correction, and that, as I had suspected since I first knew that the post-2012 politburo would include Bo in a non-top-two position, Bo may have been thinking of a coup:

“Insiders say Zhou had met Bo several times in Beijing, Chongqing and Chengdu, planning to prepare him for promotion to secretary of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee later this year. If the plan succeeded, they would potentially be able to take power from Xi Jinping, who is expected to take over as the party’s general secretary, within two years. Zhou reportedly told Bo and Wang that Xi was too timid and thus not suitable to lead the country. He suggested Bo take advantage of his media power and public support to seize power by 2014.”

If this report is true (something which is obviously unknowable at the moment), it appears that Bo and Zhou may well have gravely misjudged the Xi/Li team – or the people who picked them for power, the Hu/Wen partnership.

[Picture: Bo Xilai, disgraced former politburo member, Via Wiki]

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