In today’s episode of As Chongqing Turns, Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai has been arrested for the murder of Neil Heywood, a Beijing-based British businessman.
When we last visited Chongqing, Guagua had been urging his father to truly reform Chongqing’s political-economic system instead of singing Cultural Revolution karaoke and cracking down on “black” activities. One of Bo Xilai’s patrons, Noodle Master Kang (played by Zhou Yongkang) had been fighting with Direct Line to Heaven (played by Wen Jiabao) and Tire (Hu Jintao) for control of the Center. There were rumors of bullets having been fired in Beijing, rumors which increased levels of paranoia because of the administrative separation between control of the military and control of the police. Remember, the military is controlled by, well, the military and in the hands of Tire. The police, however, report to Noodle Master Kang and although the military is larger than the police force, nevertheless the police have more ground forces than the military, who serve and protect Chinese people in the air and at sea, in addition to on land…
Flashback to November, 2011, place: a fancy Chongqing hotel room. Neil Heywood is found dead. Representatives of the Chongqing government tell Heywood’s family that he died of a heart attack. They tell the British Embassy that he died of an overdose of alcohol poisoning. Strange, someone says, I never knew him to drink…
Flashback to Wang Lijun’s mad dash to the US Consulate in Chengdu. Close up of the Chongqing police surrounding the building, demanding that the Americans release Wang Lijun. We jump to a reconstruction of what the New York Times says took place: Wang Lijun telling the Americans (large and in blue suits) all sorts of things about the inner workings of the Center. He lowers his voice and accuses Gu Kailai of poisoning Heywood and to force the Center to reopen the case. Wang Lijun begs the US officials for asylum, but it is not granted. Instead, 30 hours after he entered the Chengdu Consulate, he leaves “of his own accord”, which is what was said at the time and we now know not to be true…
Meanwhile, the Chinese internet pulses and throbs with speculation and analysis. If Gu Kailai did poison Heywood and if hubby, Bo Xilai did cover up the murder, then speculations about the absolute lack of any moral restraints in Chinese leadership seem confirmed. If, however, Wang Lijun lied and now Bo Xilai’s enemies are using the case to end his political career, then speculations about the absolute lack of any moral restraints in Chinese leadership also seem confirmed. And what is to be done when there are two separate armed forces — the military and the police –reporting to (at least two) amoral leaders engaged in a power struggle?
This episode leaves us in Shenzhen to ponder appropriate levels of paranoia. Suddenly, for example, I’m recalling that after the recent Politics and Law Committee Training (政法委书记培训) in Beijing, I’ve notice increased police presence throughout Shenzhen. What’s the reason? I’m reconsidering Bo Xilai’s earlier trip to Kunming Military museum in terms of internal divisions. As Mayor of Chongqing, Bo Xilai had police, his chief supporter, Zhou Yongkang is head of the Politics and Law Committee and and thus can deploy police from any part of the country anywhere else. Was Bo Xilai actually cultivating military support from his father’s old friends in preparation for a worst case scenario?
And yet. I’m also thinking that the mountain is high and the emperor far away (山高皇帝远) and most of the people in the hot and heavy pursuit of Chongqing rumors tend to be either newspaper reporters, who pursue these sorts of stories for a living and friends from Beijing, who actually identify with whatever the Center is up to and spend time online tracking the rumors. Many of my southern friends don’t seem so interested, except to wonder how the political maneuvering will or will not impact manufacturing, financial services, and summer vacation plans.
That said, I may re-read my Machiavelli just to remind myself that any act by a leader should be interpreted as a power play and not within the rhetoric of serve the people. And sadly, I’m looking at you, too, American politicians who might use this fiasco to pander to anti-Chinese sentiments and American media personalities who would use anti-Chinese sentiments to increase ratings in my homeland. Unfortunately, As Chongqing Turns isn’t a telenovela. It’s what’s happening instead of necessary work to improve the lives of millions of Chinese people, which in a shared world means improving all of our lives.
Well, I’ve been riveted.
yikes! If I try to talk about this a mainlander, would they say anything?
I suspect yes. Everyone I talk to about Chongqing has opinions and is willing to share them. My sense of talking about current events with Chinese friends is that I have to show interest and a bit of knowledge, and then the conversation flows. Usually, they assume that I don’t know anything and raise topics based on what they think my interests are and what I may actually know… Also, not every Chinese person is interested in Chongqing. I’ve also noticed disgust and active avoidance.
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