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LinkAsia | Sep 25
Wang Lijun, the former Chongqing vice mayor and police chief, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes ranging from defection to bribe-t...
And now, more on the biggest political story in China this year: the Bo Xilai scandal. To justify the purge of Bo Xilai, party leaders in China have raised fears that the country might fall into violence and anarchy. Just like it did during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s when Mao Zedong enforced socialism and eliminated opposition groups. Party leaders are hinting that Bo wanted to become another Mao. And they’re using their tight control over the official media to make their case. For our contributor, David Bandurski, all this demonstrates how politics really hasn’t changed in China.
One month ago, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called for political reform by playing to fears of one of the most terrible episodes in the history of the People's Republic of China. Without successful political reform, he said, we risk repeating historical tragedies like the Cultural Revolution. Wen's remarks were aimed at Chongqing's then-top leader, the populist Bo Xilai. Bo was already facing scandals stemming from the attempted defection at the US consulate of his former police chief, Wang Lijun. And news of his removal as chief of Chongqing came the day after Wen Jiabao's statement. Many liberals in China were threatened by Bo's leftist politics, a model of heavy-handed state intervention packaged in Maoist nostalgia. But the ouster of Bo Xilai in recent weeks has shown just how much the old politics of power struggle are China's politics. Earlier this month, the ax finally fell on Bo with three releases from the official Xinhua news agency. The first two said Bo had been removed from the party's central committee, that his wife was being investigated for the alleged murder of British national Neil Heywood. And finally, an editorial declared that the decision to remove Bo shows the party's emphasis on facts and rule of law. And in media across the country, the party's word was law. They were ordered to run the three Xinhua releases prominently. Power politics was played out on the front pages in a way rarely seen in China's era of market-driven media. At Southern Metropolis Daily, a commercial newspaper known for its aspiring professionalism, all three releases were splashed across the front page, with no images. The top news was official news, not unlike the party's flagship newspaper, the People's Daily. And the official releases topped major websites too. The brazen use of the media as a political tool continued on the nightly official newscast on China Central television. First, the three official releases were read out verbatim by the anchors. Then came a rare case of biaotai, or "clearly stating one's political stand." A range of local cadres from all around the country pledging allegiance to the central committee. Eyeballs tracing over carefully prepared scripts. This sort of political pledging of loyalty and unity has not been seen since the aftermath of the bloody crackdown on democracy demonstrations in June, 1989. Two days later, on April 13th, Chinese newspapers were again ordered to run the official People's Daily editorial on the front page, and to label it explicitly as being from the People's Daily. In a year that has been marked with hints of factionalism and division within the party, top leaders are eager to project a united front. But the idea of unity has been pushed so insistently in recent days that this is one of the surest signs of just how jittery things are ahead of the Eighteenth Party Congress later this year. And as the aggressive media controlled response in recent days shows, the answer to the jitters in China's prevailing political culture is not openness or rule of law, it's politics as usual. And to the victor goes the news coverage. In Hong Kong, I'm David Bandurski for LinkAsia.
Although Chinese citizens are frustrated and disgusted with the news of Bo's corruption, few are actually surprised. For some time now, it's become a popular assumption that anyone with wealth or power must have obtained it through corruption.