China: Conservatives’ Waterloo in Bo Xilai saga

Bo Xilai

China announced in its prime time TV news the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo decision to expel Bo Xilai from the CCP, remove him from all his official posts and transfer his case to the prosecutor for Bo’s serious crimes of abusing power for other people’s interests and taking huge bribes.

The power struggle of the factions advocating the rule of law and the reformist factions against the conservatives finally ends with a Waterloo for the conservatives.

It was quite fierce a struggle.

In Bo’s wife’s case, Bo was not even mentioned while in Bo’s subordinate Wang Lijun’s case, Bo was obviously involved but the court refrained from mentioning him by name, giving people the impression that the Party had not yet decided to denounce Bo publicly.

Usually such an issue can be decided by CCP leaders and elders at their summer conference in Beidaihe before the CCP national congress. This time, however, powerful elders had to converge in Beijing to conduct long and intensive discussions before they were able to finally come to a decision.

The power struggle had been extremely fierce.

In fact, as soon as Bo fell into disgrace, most media in the world regarded it as an internal power struggle within the CCP. CCP’s mouthpiece the People’s Daily, however, published one commentary after another to deny that. CCP’s history is in fact a history of power struggle. In the Mao era, it was called the struggle between two lines, and Mao was proud of his victories in quite a few such struggles.

When Peng Dehuai foresaw the disaster Mao’s pursuit of excessive economic growth might bring to China, he wrote a private letter to Mao to warn him politely, but Mao said his letter aimed to usurp power. Mao labeled Peng and 3 million others as rightists to persecute.

Mao used the letter to persecute Peng, the only official who had the courage to oppose him, in order to silence all opposition within the CCP. He won the power struggle at the heavy cost of causing the death of 20 to 40 million people.

Another of Mao’s power struggles, the notorious Cultural Revolution to seize power back from his chosen successor Liu Shaoqi, was notorious for the persecution of a large percentage of the Chinese urban population.

Due to the evils of such power struggles, since the silent peaceful coup mentioned in my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements”, the CCP has been making great efforts to prove that it has turned a new leaf and is now free of internal struggle.

However, politicians must have power to implement their policies and achieve their goals. There has to be a power struggle for them to seize power. In a democracy, a power struggle is carried out peacefully in an orderly manner through election. Those who win the election obtain political power.

In China, an autocracy, there is no such mechanism. Politicians have to conduct power struggle to seize power so as to implement their policies and achieve their goals.

Therefore, power struggles are the most important and interesting parts of Chinese history, especially contemporary Chinese history. They are important as they determine China’s destiny: whether it is prosperous or in difficulty or chaos.

People are interested in Chinese political struggles due to the mystery in them.

“Sound of axe and shadows of people in candlelight, eternal mystery” is a well-known Chinese saying that describes the mystery of palace coups in China. It originated from the story of the sudden death of Emperor Taizu, the founding emperor of the Song Dynasty, and the abnormal succession by his brother instead of his son. Quite a few people believe that Taizu was murdered by his brother, but as there has been no evidence, it remains an eternal mystery.

The CCP power centre is a black box where everything, including a leader’s health, is strictly kept confidential. How can we know that Bo’s downfall was the consequence of a power struggle and conservatives’ Waterloo? Then it seems impossible to write Chinese history truthfully. No, we can know from the obvious consequence of the struggle.

Take Emperor Taizu’s death for example. All his sons died of abnormal death. That obviously proved that Taizu’s brother came to throne by ill means and that he had to remove Taizu’s sons to prevent their revenge. Therefore, we believe that there was at least 70% probability that Taizu’s brother murdered him and usurped the throne.

As for Bo’s downfall being the conservatives’ defeat, we shall first have some background knowledge.

In my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements”, I describe the successful coup in the CCP to substitute intellectuals’ for uneducated workers and peasants’ dominance of the Party and State. I said that the first of Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents justifies CCP’s pursuance of capitalism and conservatives’ resistance to the capitalist reform had thus been overcome.

However, that was reformists’ victory by tricks and intrigues. No decisive battle has been fought between the reformists and conservatives. For most rank and file Party members who lack knowledge about Marxist theory, they do not know the true meaning of the first Represent. In order to avoid the opposition to capitalism from the large number of conservatives in the Party, CCP central authority almost always avoid the terms of capitalism, private enterprises and the like. and replace them by primary stage of socialism and nongovernmental enterprises.

On the other hand, the children of deceased senior officials who fought for the establishment of the PRC, though they cannot inherit their parents’ power, can exploit their parents’ influence in their commercial and political careers.

Most of them are rich entrepreneurs or highly-paid executives now. Those who prefer a political career are also very successful. Among them, Bo Xilai was most prominent. He was promoted to the Party boss of a major city at provincial level and into the Politburo. However, he had greater ambition. He believed that he was more talented than any of the top leaders such as Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo and Wen Jiabao. As the son of one of the most powerful elders, he should be their boss instead of taking instructions from them.

He began to set his own Chongqing model and had made it very popular especially the sing-red campaign, which reminded people of the achievements of his father and other founders of the People’s Republic of China with the implication that those who contributed to the establishment of the Republic and their children should be the masters of the CCP Dynasty. Chongqing became the rally point of most princelings, retired officials and their children and other conservatives and won the support of lots of low-income people due to the yawning rich-poor gap resulted from the reform.

Due to the popularity of conservatives’ Chongqing model of disrupting the rule of law and persecution of lawyers, reformists are unable to achieve their goal of the rule of law, the key step of their political reform and the foundation of democracy.

Since 2005, Wen Jiabao and other reformists had called in vain for further economic liberalisation to remove open and hidden barriers for private enterprises to enter quite a few industries and eliminate the monopoly of giant state-owned enterprises, until an opportunity occurred due to the emergence of serious unemployment caused by the financial tsunami. Wen exploited the opportunity to remove the barriers in quite a few industries and thus facilitate substantial development of private enterprises in those industries. I call that the third wave of economic liberalisation.

The first wave was the liberalisation of the agricultural sector and permission of the development of private industrial enterprises conducted by Deng Xiaoping and Zhao Ziyang; while the second was the privatisation of small state-owned enterprises and the transformation of large state-owned enterprises to turn them profitable conducted by Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji.

The conservatives’ opposition was even stronger to further economic liberalisation to reduce State control of economy and remove state-owned enterprises’ monopoly and privileges. As for political reform for democracy, conservatives absolutely did not allow it. As a result, Premier Wen Jiabao’s call for political reform and democracy got no support for years.

Judging by what happened after Bo’s downfall, we clearly know there was a battle between reformists and conservatives and Bo’s downfall was the conservatives’ defeat in the power struggle.

1.     The amendment of the Criminal Procedure Law to ensure the rule of law.

In order to ensure the rule of law, reformists made great efforts to amend China’s Criminal Procedure Law to forbid arepe tition of Bo’s malpractices of extraction of confession by torture and to protect lawyers’ right of defence. This was the skirmish of the battle. In the course of the amendment, the reformists investigated Bo Xilai’s trusted assistant Wang Lijun’s malpractices in Bo’s campaign against organised crime and Bo’s wife’s involvement in British businessman Neil Heywood’s death.

The details of what really happened may probably remain a mystery forever but the resultant fight between Bo and Wang and Wang’s seeking of asylum were clear consequences of the investigation that caused Bo’s downfall.

The battle was so intense that Jiang Zemin had to go to Beijing to play his decisive role as the core of the collective leadership in the battle.

2.     The beginning of the fourth wave of economic liberalisation.

Without further reform to remove barriers for private enterprises to enter various sectors and eliminate state-owned enterprises’ monopoly, China will fall into the medium income trap. After Bo’s downfall, a pilot project of financial reform began in Wenzhou.

3.     Democracy

In a front-page story that was followed by several articles inside, the People’s Daily said on April 24 that political reform was “an important part” of the mainland’s overall reforms.

The People’s Daily articles followed earlier reports calling for political reform, all carried on April 23 by three key media organisations: the People’s Daily, Xinhua, the news agency directly under the State Council and the China Youth Daily, run by the Communist Youth League, a training base for the mainland’s future leaders. Those articles came less than two weeks after Bo’s ousting.

However, at that time, the conservatives remained strong even after Bo fell into disgrace and the power struggles continued regarding how Bo should be punished. Knowing that he has strong support from the conservatives, Bo even said, “I will return,” when he had lunch with his Japanese friend Mr Udagawa in mid May.

Through months of power struggle, the conservatives have finally met their Waterloo, proved by the severe punishment to be meted out to Bo Xilai.

China’s prospects of further economic and political reform are brighter now.

Categories: Politics & Law

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3 replies


  1. China’s CCP (Chinese Communist Party) Dynasty « China Daily Mail
  2. Speculation on Party Secretariat member Wang Huning’s promotion « China Daily Mail
  3. The mystery of the core of the CCP Dynasty « China Daily Mail

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