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An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Bo’s downfall triggers Chinese outpouring [Financial Times]


From the Financial Times: ‘no coincidence that the downfall of Bo Xilai, China’s most charismatic and polarising Communist official, came on the Ides of March‘? Stability at all cost. In some ways it is not difficult to read the intentions of the Chinese. History replays itself as the party nips further divisive action by Bo in the bud.

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Bo’s downfall triggers Chinese outpouring
By Jamil Anderlini in Beijing
Source – Financial Times, published March 16, 2012

Bo Xilai, China’s would-be Caesar, is a popular figure in Chinese politics. Source - Reuters

Perhaps it was no coincidence that the downfall of Bo Xilai, China’s most charismatic and polarising Communist official, came on the Ides of March.

After all, Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier who publicly admonished Mr Bo a day earlier on March 14, is an avid fan of Shakespeare – and Chinese political manoeuvres are always heavy on symbolism.

Whatever was behind the timing, Mr Bo’s purge is the most significant end to a political career in China for more than two decades. It has raised fears the Communist party could be destabilised by growing rifts between increasingly entrenched factions.

The announcement on Thursday that Mr Bo had been ousted as party secretary of the south-western metropolis of Chongqing sent shockwaves through the nation and elicited very mixed responses.

With his radiant smile and populist policies, Mr Bo was well liked among many ordinary citizens, especially residents in Dalian and Chongqing, the two cities where he served as the top official.

The news of his political demise was met by an outpouring of emotion from many people on the internet who expressed support for his social policies and his crackdown on crime.

“Good uncle Bo Xilai, the people will always remember you and can distinguish between good and evil, beauty and ugliness,” said one internet user with the name “Ordinary person, new student”.

Another user called “Flying ocean” said: “As a Dalian native, from high school through university I was always proud, but after I graduated every time I went back there I noticed a huge difference . . . With its frequent fire disasters, dirty streets and rookie drivers, what has Dalian come to? Compared to Bo Xilai all the [government officials] who came after him have been far worse.”

Although Mr Bo’s “anti-mafia” crackdown on crime in Chongqing was wildly popular when launched in 2008, it caused consternation among liberals and human rights activists for its use of torture and disregard for the legal process.

It also offended some of Mr Bo’s powerful rivals within the party, who saw their allies being targeted as “mafia bosses” while alleged misdeeds by Mr Bo’s acolytes were ignored.

The man who led the anti-crime crusade, Mr Bo’s handpicked police chief Wang Lijun, was ultimately the one who prompted his downfall when he sought asylum in a US consulate last month, claiming that Mr Bo was trying to have him killed. After providing documentary proof of alleged crimes committed by Mr Bo, Mr Wang left the consulate in the company of state security agents and was taken to Beijing for investigation.

One man who witnessed first-hand the brutality of the Chongqing campaign was Li Jun, a former billionaire property developer who was tortured for three months, had his assets seized and saw most of his family jailed after he eventually managed to flee the country.

“I am happy Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun are where they are today,” Mr Li said on Friday. “These two men trampled all over China’s democracy and law, killing innocent people. They persecuted thousands of people in Chongqing in their so-called ‘anti-mafia’ campaign, which was actually an excuse to confiscate hundreds of billions of renminbi worth of assets from private entrepreneurs.”

As for Mr Bo’s fate, all of China is speculating as to whether he will get a taste of his own medicine in a Chinese prison, or whether he might be given a ceremonial role in the party so that he can live out his days in obscurity.

On Friday, the government sent mixed messages. One high-level official was quoted as saying that Mr Bo should be given credit for his achievements in Chongqing while a strongly worded editorial appeared in Seeking Truth, the party magazine, from Xi Jinping, vice-president of China, which hinted at possible harsh treatment.

The party must “firmly oppose all actions that harm and split the party . . . firmly excise decayed and corrupted people who deviated from the party constitution, who jeopardised the undertaking of the party and who have lost the credentials to be a party member”, wrote Mr Xi, the man who is all but certain to be named president in a once-in-a-decade leadership transition later this year.

Although the editorial had been written and published previously in a newspaper before Mr Bo’s dismissal, the decision to reprint Mr Xi’s words will offer little comfort to China’s would-be Caesar Bo as he sits in Beijing awaiting his fate.

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Bo Xilai, Chinese Model, Corruption, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Influence, Nationalism, Peaceful Development, People, Politics, Reform, The Chinese Identity

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