Chinese Intrigue Runs into the Wall of the US Consulate General
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 13, 2012
Summary: The Bo Xilai scandal may involve more twists and turns. But Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have taken charge of the investigation of Bo Xilai's wife, who is suspected of murdering a British businessman. This is considered a smart move. One. It avoids the ugly stereotype of a Chinese Communist Party power struggle. It reduces the backlash. Two. It shatters the leftist "Chongqing Model" myth in the minds of the public. Three. It strikes a blow against the rampant corruption of "second generation officialdom" and the "princelings," and gives them fair warning.
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The Bo Xilai scandal may involve more twists and turns. But Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have taken charge of the investigation of Bo Xilai's wife, who is suspected of murdering a British businessman. This is considered a smart move. One. It avoids the ugly stereotype of a Chinese Communist Party power struggle. It reduces the backlash. Two. It shatters the leftist "Chongqing Model" myth in the minds of the public. Three. It strikes a blow against the rampant corruption of "second generation officialdom" and the "princelings," and gives them fair warning.
Mainland China may be the factory of the world. But politically outsiders still find it hard to penetrate the halls of power. So far Beijing has been able to keep a lid on the Bo Xilai scandal. The key factor was Wang Lijun, who sought asylum at the US Consulate General in Chengdu, and exposed Bo Xilai's secrets. He spent nearly thirty hours inside. This alarming scandal provided everyone with a glimpse of what goes on behind the opaque curtain. It forced the CCP Central Committee to respond to what the world had just witnessed. It could not reveal the truth only to the US, while keeping the Chinese people in the dark.
Chinese Communist Party politics has long been opaque. Chinese society is obsessed with individual heroes. Bo Xilai and his Chongqing myth was made possible by these two conditions. Now that Bo Xilai has been removed from office, stories about his family's sex scandals, wanton conduct, and rampant corruption have emerged. They are so numerous the public is incredulous. Even assuming only 20% of the rumors are true, they can hardly be reconciled with his image as a hero who "sang the praises of socialism while striking out against corruption." Even more ominously, Bo's wife and bodyguards are suspected of murder, They successfully hoodwinked the public. This forced Wang Lijun to seek asylum at the US Consulate General. Bo even mobilized the army and the police, and surrounded the consulate general. The treacherous situtaion was straight out of a spy thriller. Such a scenario is unimaginable on Taiwan or in the United States.
The Bo Xilai scandal involves diplomatic, political, and judicial issues. This makes the problem even pricklier. Fortunately on the diplomatic front, Washington kept mum. This gave Bejing an opportunity to deal with the problem. The consulate general began by not granting Wang Lijun asylum. Instead, it turned him over to Beijing. Washington revealed nothing about the scandal afterwards. For the Obama administration, this constituted a gesture of goodwill. This was proof positive that US diplomatic personnel abroad are well trained. They know when to hold, and know when to fold.
A lowly consulate general in Chengdu could precipitate a prickly dispute between two governments. The United States clearly has comprehensive and effective standard operating procedures, Personnel stationed abroad know what to do at all times. They know whom to notify. They know how to respond. This shows that the US has established regulations that officials and the public can refer to. This is definitely easier and more effective than relying on the wisdom of a coterie of charismatic leaders. It also helps maintain social stability. This is something we cannot ignore when discussing the Bo Xilai scandal.
Politically, Bo Xilai used "striking out against corruption" to expand his "singing the praises of socialism" offensive. He created a realm of his own. Essentially he thumbed his nose at the path taken by the Chinese Communist Party. The socialist path Bo championed went far beyond the thinking of either the Old Left or the New Left. It even glorified the Cultural Revolution. This irrational development was a dangerous reaction to current developments on the Chinese mainland. Most paradoxically of all, Bo Xilai and his family wallowed in luxury. They abused their power. Their conduct was diametrically opposed to the leftist sentiments he trumpeted. Will Wang Lijun's bid for asylum at the US Consulate General shatter this populist myth? Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao may need to clean up this mess before leaving office. At the very least, they must ensure that the political progress they made during their 10-year reign are not wiped out overnight.
How many more undisclosed secrets does Bo Xilai have? How should they be dealt with? The CCP Central Committee must deal with them cautiously. This includes what Wang Lijun disclosed to Washington. Is Gu Kailai is the mastermind behind the murder of British businessman Neil Haywood? If so, Bo Xilai knew about it and covered it up. This alone would mean he has no chance of a comeback. If Bo is guilty of other disciplinary violations or engaged in other incidents of corruption. he should be fairly investigated and publicly tried. The truth must be made public. This will minimize concerns about political purges and political persecution. This will provide everyone on the Mainland, from top to bottom, with an object lesson in the rule of law.
The Bo Xilai myth has been shattered. He may have gotten what he deserved. Sadly, a political hero so many people worshipped was so vulnerable. In any case, the scandal has provided political leaders on the Mainland an opportunity for reflection and reform. It stripped away the mask from leftist politicians. It allowed the public to appreciate the importance of a system of checks and balances. The Chinese Communist Party should thank the United States for not making the matter public. This enabled Beijing to shatter the Bo Xilai myth on the walls of the US Consulate General.
2012.04.13 01:28 am