bao tong analyzes the southern weekend incident

baotongZhao Ziyang’s former secretary, Bao Tong has weighed in on the Southern Weekend Incident. And once again, his quirky take sheds all sorts of light into the dark corners of power at the top of China’s massive state apparatus.

Bao Tong suggests that the Southern Weekend Incident has raised three questions.

First, inquiring minds want to know, who’s actually opposing Xi Jinping? According to Bao Tong, all seven members of the Central Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China had to agree on Xi Jinping’s take on constitutionalism before he announced it. Thus, when the Southern Weekend decided to run “China’s dream, the dream of constitutional government”, they were doing their job, pushing forward the national agenda. Thus, what struck Bao Tong as abnormal wasn’t that an opinion piece was unilaterally changed, but that we don’t know who actually did it because none of the top seven have said, “I’m opposed to the national agenda.” In other words, on Bao Tong’s reading, we still don’t know who exactly is opposing constitutional reform. Is it someone in Guangdong? In Bejing? In the Ministry of information? Somewhere higher and deeper?

Second, inquiring minds want to know, why haven’t the seven just said, yes China has a constitution and it is the legal standard in the country? The seven announced that they would participate in reforming the constitution. They also announced that the constitution was the legitimating authority in China. But when the Southern Weekend encountered a force that was anti-constitution, none of the Standing members said anything. Surely, any and all of them could have said, yes, Constitution, good? So, Bao Tong wants to know, in this case where speaking was more natural than not speaking, what exactly does the seven’s collective silence mean?

Third and most seriously, at present, the role of the constitution is unclear. If the seven aren’t talking in support of the constitution, is it because the constitution doesn’t actually matter? Or if the opposition to the constitution is so strong, why not just admit that constitutional government in China isn’t really an option?  Bao Tong’s actual words go right to the point, “If China’s constitution doesn’t have legitimacy, then we should take the opportunity to tell everyone to stop hoping for constitutional government. This way we can avoid the people dreaming their way onto an evil road and blindly wasting their time (如果憲政在中國沒有合法性,應該趁早叫大家死了這條心,免得全國全民在夢中走上邪路瞎折騰).”

Last year, as Chongqing Turns became an international melodrama, Bao Tong provided one of the most interesting takes on Bo Xilai, arguing that Chongqing’s most infamous Party secretary was in fact Mao’s true heir because he was not afraid to use power to achieve political ends.

bo xilai: true heir to the revolution?

Bao Tong (鲍彤) was Zhao Ziyang’s secretary. Zhao Ziyang, of course, was the Secretary General of the CCP who fell from power because he supported a non-violent resolution to the Tian’anmen protests. Yesterday, Bao Tong chimed in on the Bo Xilai scandal and how it relates to the upcoming 18th National People’s Conference — and yes, whether or not Gu Kailai killed Niel Haywood is a matter of secondary importance, rather than being a question of life or death for the Party. For Bao Tong and like minded CCP politicos, the question is still one of the absolute authority of the Party.

Here’s the rub: Bo Xilai has become a negative example of abuses of Party authority and power. However, like Deng Xiaoping before him, Bo Xilai is the direct heir of Marxin, Lenin, Mao and Stalin. If the Party removes Bo Xilai, they have rejected the justification for absolute power. If they continue with Bo Xilai, then they must deal with the fact that Bo Xilai has been discredited. Bao Tong thus provocatively and accurately raises the question: If Bo Xilai (or someone like him) is the heir to the revolution, what’s the Party to do? Translation of Bao Tong’s op-ed piece, below.

There are Two Choices at the 18th NPC

Bo Xilai has already become history. The reason he has entered the annals of history isn’t because of his wife, Gu Kailai was convicted, but because he pursued the “Sing Red, Attack Black [mafia] (唱红打黑)” campaign.

Some have slandered Bo Xilai by saying he isn’t a filial descendent of the Party. This is unfair. He really was immoral and lawless, but wasn’t Mao Zedong?  Lenin openly defined revolution as “only dependent on the direct action of the masses and not dependent on any law”, and is thus the even more immoral and lawless ancestor. Under Lenin’s strategy and leadership, the Bolsheviks brazenly dispersed the elected All Russian Constituent Assembly, starting the age of Red Terrorism. Mao Zedong delighted in bragging about his lack of conscious and lawlessness. He didn’t believe this was a source of shame, but rather a source of honor. All Chinese people are familiar with this history. Bo Xilai was merely the direct heir to this tradition. There is no possible discussion about Mao Zedong and Stalin’s personal morality. Thus, if we are to fairly evaluate Bo Xilai, we cannot say that he was the unworthy son of the Party, but must say he was the Party’s worthy son, its skillful and finest son, most worthy in the extreme.

If we are speaking of Party nature (党性), who is more truly of the Party than Bo Xilai. Singing red is to walk with the Party, and attacking black is to struggle against those enemies that the Party has identified. This is the highest essence of revolution and strongest discipline. Bo Xilai had a strong body. During his youth, he was bewitched by Mao Zedong into entering a life or death struggle with his father, Bo Yibo, who Mao had called a traitor. Who else has demonstrated this level of innocent and pure revolutionary spirit and loyalty to the Party?

It must be pointed out that by calling the Chongqing Model “Sing Red, Attack Black”, Bo Xilai had completely digested the marrow of the Party’s authoritative government. Standing in the position of a Party leader, to sing red is to respect only the Party, and to attack Black is to suppress anyone else (异己).

For the masses, singing red is the obligatory way to serve the Party, and attacking black is the willingness to fight on the Party’s behalf. Without exaggeration, we can say that the existence of a political campaign called “Sing Red, Attack Black” signals that the Party’s monolithic control of government has ended. [Within the State Party system] Anything that does not belong to the system is beside the point. Even if it is important, it cannot be a life or death conflict. For example, the difference between Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping’s respective policies or that between Stalin and Hitler’s policies is no doubt one of better or worse, but these differences were differences within the context of serving the absolute political power of the Party.

Consequently, when cutting up a cake, there is always the question of who gets the bigger slice. On the the issues of public housing and hukou, Bo Xilai was not rigid, in fact he was extremely flexible. This is one of the reasons he won the hearts of the people. However, he he could only tentatively hold his deep seeded “follow me and flourish, oppose me and perish” attitude (“顺我者昌逆我者亡”这条命根子). He blatantly raised his “Sing Red, Attack Black” banner, brandishing his sword, declaring his strength and prosperity, without giving any quarter. What was this? This was nothing other than the Bo Xilai Model, or we could call it Bo-ism. It was also Maoism for the 21st century. Bo Xilai didn’t invent “follow me and flourish, oppose me and perish”. However, in order to call corruption a miracle and to paint cruel and inhuman philosophy as miraculous revolutionary truth, Bo Xilai needed extreme sincerity in order to succeed as he did.

Some argue that “Red is true! Black is crime!” Is this true? When were the “nine types of black” established in the legal domain? “The whole country is red” campaign was obviously an unprecedented catastrophe. Governance depends upon clear legal ideas, and does not require romanticism or catchy slogans, and does not permit illegal gutting and rewriting the law.

The especially pernicious aspect of singing red was that it called an ass a horse, sedating the people and deifying leadership. In Bo Xilai’s Sing Red campaign a “power grab” was mystified as “the great victory of democratic revolution”. The ongoing impoverishment and alienation was mystified as “the great victory of socialism”. The widening gap between rich and poor was mystified as “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Human rights abuses were mystified as “stability”. And immorality and lawlessness was mystified as “the greatest glory”. Of course, with respect to Bo Xilai himself, he was the new savior of the world.

The especially pernicious aspect of attacking black was using law to solve problems that could not be solved through legal means. It made people crazy to attack wherever the Party pointed: attack rightists, attack anti-rvolutionaries, attack liberalization, attack vulgar values, attack those protest, attack those with power, attack lawyers, attack those with the courage not to submit to the Party’s leaders, attack the enemy in Bo Xilai’s eye; charge with out fear of death, attack! All that was necessary was to raise children who daily sang red and attacked the black, and everyone would be in crazy sedation. The highest power would then naturally pass from generation to generation, flourishing for 1,000 years, the establishment of an imperial house. This was the perfect strategy concealed in Bo Xilai’s four characters “Sing Red, Attack Black”.

Even if this campaign had entered high levels of Party debate, nevertheless early on some clear sighted people saw it was unfeasible. Those who sang red were “Party parrots (党八股)”. Lin Biao advocated reading Mao everyday, but Minister of Propaganda Lu Ding disagreed. Lu Ding contradicted Lin Biao with the colloquialism “even delicious Yunnan ham if eaten everyday will cause indigestion”. Clearly, Lin Biao didn’t have Lu Ding’s experience in propaganda. Attacking black everyday was the same as doing the Cultural Revolution everyday. Likewise, how could Bo Xilai be more knowledgeable than the General Secretary in determining the importance of harmony to social stability? Unsurprisingly, when Bo Xilai first appeared on the list of potential candidates for the Standing Committee, how hard it was for people of understanding to stand like pillars in flowing water. They didn’t make a pilgrimage, they didn’t chant sutras, and they didn’t cheer! (With all the drama for becoming General Secretary, the situation is extremely complicated. Those who had risen by attacking black and made their living singing red were probably a small minority.)

The 18th National People’s Congresses faces a choice: either tie itself to Bo Xilai or cut him loose. If they are unwilling to open the 18th NPC under Bo Xilai’s shadow, then it is time to quietly begin ending the “Sing Red, Attack Black” campaign. Of course, if they are willing to openly and properly join Bo Xilai in singing red and attacking black, this is even more commendable, more deserving of everyone’s welcome and support.