More Princeling drama: Guagua returns and possible public appearance by Bo Xilai

Yesterday, Epoch times reported that the FBI repatriated Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai’s son, Bo Guagua. Why should we care?

Before the 18th National People’s Congress opened, the Party had stripped Bo Xilai of his Party standing and his post, which is called “double removal (薄熙来双开)” and sentenced Gu Kailai to death, with a two-year probationary period. So one would think that the Congress would open and the folks at the top would get on with sentencing Bo Xilai and making official appointments. However, the 18th NPC has opened and we still don’t know what exactly is happening.

We can speculate, however, that with the repatriation of Guagua, apparently the United States has decided to help Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping do whatever it is they’re doing behind closed doors. It may be that Gu Kailai was actually poisoned, and Guagua needs to give evidence. It may also be that he knows something about his parents’ affairs. More importantly, whatever the legal reasons for dragging Guagau back home, the fact of his return seems to indicate that Hu Jintao and / or Xi Jinping have decided to break with Deng Xiaoping’s famous decision to spare Zhao Ziyang’s children from prosecution in the post Tian’anmen era.

Common wisdom holds that given the decision to deploy the military to squash the protests in 1989, Deng Xiaoping had no other option than placing Zhao Ziyang under house arrest. Nevertheless, he expressed his solidarity with his former protege by announcing that investigations into Tian’anmen would not include the children of prominent leaders. In fact, in the post-1989 era, Zhao Ziyang’s daughter, Wang Yannan (王雁南) has been active campaigning for the rehabilitation of her father and other leaders.

Deng Xiaoping’s decision to spare Zhao Ziyang’s four sons, let alone his wife and her family reflected a modern understanding of the family. Traditionally, when high-ranking officials were sentenced, the victims included “executing the nine branches of a lineage (灭门九族)”. Chinese kinship traditionally reckons lineage through the father-son relationship (agnatic descent-家族), but also distinguishes branches within the lineage through mother-daughter-and sister marriages (嫁). The nine kinship branches (九族) are:

  1. Father’s family, four kinship branches — self (kinship branches counted from eldest and other sons), married paternal aunts and cousins, married sisters and sisters’ children, married daughters and grandchildren;
  2. Mother’s family, three kinship branches — mother’s father’s family, mother’s mother’s family, and mother’s sister’s family;
  3. Wife’s family, two kinship branches — father-in-law’s family and mother-in-law’s family.

Obviously, contemporary Princeling court dramas are different from the Confucian first, second, third, and fourth wife scenarios a la Raise the Red Lantern (movie and book). This is why Bo Xilai’s first wife, Li Danyu could gossip with New York Times reporters about Bo-Gu family intrigue, while her and Bo’s eldest son Li Wangzhi can continue cattle farming. However, more colloquially, Guagua maybe be one of the implicated (株连) simply because his father has no other weakness and has yet to admit that he was wrong. After all, Gu Kailai did confess; Bo Xilai has made no public apologies or admissions of error.

Speculation du jour, if Princelings benefit from family connections, perhaps they can also be used against each other, especially against those like Bo Xilai, who might not otherwise bend. Bo Xilai will be sentenced in Guizhou, Guiyang. So to speculate even further, weibo has it, that on Monday, Oct 15, Bo Xilai will appear publicly in Guizhou, and inquiring minds want to know: how is this appearance connected to his younger son’s return?

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.

Falungong appears on baidu, must mean Jiang Zemin is going, going, gone…

Learning to read Chinese media more often than not means learning to understand the significance of the information to those playing behind the walls of Zhongnanhai.

Today, for example, it is possible to get on Baidu (百度) and successfully search for Falungong (法轮功). We all know that 1999, Jiang Zemin ordered the violent suppression of Falungong. This led to over a decade of sustained persecution against practitioners. Observers speculated that he did so because he (and others in the Party) saw Falungong as not being a religious organization, but rather a potential political player in Mainland society. In English, Michael J. Greenlee provides a useful overview of the organization’s history and Jiang Zemin’s response. However, for many of us the most interesting part of ending censorship of information on Falungong is not that we can now jump to Li Hongzhi’s tomes 大圆满法 and 转法轮, but rather that it signals the end of the Jiang era. The Two Meetings are churning relentlessly forward and it seems that power has been wrested from Jiang’s hands.

Jiang Zemin came to power precisely because he was willing to implement Deng Xiaoping’s decision to suppress anti-corruption protests in June 1989. Moreover, it’s been a while since we could baidu ourselves to information about Zhao Ziyang, the former Party Secretary who apparently did not support the use of violence against protestors. So the question du jour is: will the firewall on news about Tian’anmen also fall? Or will Tian’anmen remain off limits as long as Reform and Opening remains the main Party line and Deng Xiaoping is identified as its architect?

mapping ignorance

Was conversing friends about political succession since Mao and how to interpret reports coming out of Beijing and Guangzhou with respect to Shenzhen’s political status and symbolic valence within the national imaginary. Their 15 year old daughter was at the table, politely ignoring us, when someone mentioned Hua Guofeng (华国锋). She lifted her eyes and asked, “Who?”

Her father explained Mao’s appointed heir had been at the center of a political struggle with Deng Xiaoping to decide if China would continue Maoist policies or pursue reform. This struggle ended with a coup d’etat and the Sino-Vietnamese War as Deng Xiaoping gained political control by securing support of military leaders and high-ranking Party commissars. We then mused about the relationship between violence and political succession, even if indirectly, because Jiang Zemin (江泽民) only became Deng’s appointed successor in the aftermath of Tian’anmen and Zhao Ziyang‘s (赵紫阳) fall.

“Who?”

All this to say, that dinner I experienced a We Didn’t Start the Fire moment with post Cold War Chinese characteristics — recent history actually is this easily forgotten. Or more to the point, I realized (again!) the extent that what we know of recent history comes only as events disrupt our daily lives.  Continue reading