Zhao 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.