Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bo Xilai: The CCP's Other Wenzhou

The Bo Xilai affair has, without doubt, been China Watcher's flavour of the month, worthy of the very best day time Soaps.

The minutia of the story bears no repeating here for most will be more than familiar with this saga of a flamboyant politician, his scheming wife and murder in the Orient.

But for me the stand-out feature about this whole affair is not the facts of what Bo and his wife did, the way they did it, nor, even, that they got caught. The most telling thing for me is that it took so long.

That fact alone speaks volumes as to the state of the Chinese Communist Party and the inner workings of the elite and, therein, lays the main story; the Bo's relegated to roles of but bit-part walk-on actors.

Corruption, graft, call it what you will, is endemic in China. Everyone is aware of that. Even the Regime routinely calls upon the Chinese people and, most ironically, it's own members to be conscious of and to take all steps to eradicate it.

It affects almost all areas of commerce and is known to be rife in most levels of officialdom. The Chinese press regularly reports the arrest or sentencing of those involved, generally just low to medium level fall guys (two notable and fairly recent exceptions notwithstanding).

It would seem to be a case of who hasn't got their snout in the trough rather than who has.

But despite these “public relations” exhortations and show trials, corruption not only continues unabated but appears to be growing in reach. It protects criminals of all hues, it shields the likes of illicit coal mine owners covering up accidents and even deaths. There is, in other words, little of Chinese society that is not touched by it's clammy hands to some degree.

It is not a new phenomena. It has it's roots farther back than the CCP coming to power. It was an accepted part of Chinese culture for centuries. In Dynastic times it was a deeply held aspiration of many to one day rise to  a position to be able to dip into the pot of gold, to take one's position at the pigs trough. Even poor peasants would sacrifice everything to assist their sons in getting even the most minor of positions in officialdom, for that was the door to money and prestige.

But, corruption in olden days, dynastic days, had a certain savoir faire air of 'honour among thieves', a modern day Mafia Omertà, that was respected not only within the ranks but also from those on the outside looking in. That is no longer the case. 

Stories, too numerous to recount, abound as to examples of it's insidious reach: poor people being dispossessed of their land entitlements, of dying people being refused medical care through the inability to “grease the right palms”. Seemingly, since the demise of the Qing Dynasty the grab for money has become boldfaced and indiscriminate as to it's nature and it's targets.

No longer is it generally seen as being a widely accepted given of Chinese society, it now is but an aberration of a way of life that goes back to Confucian times. The blatant headlong lunge for money and the 'pornographic' flaunting of the wealth so gained, has become an anathema to it's history.

The Bo affair is alarming not for what he did but for the fact that it took so long for the party to “catch” him. It speaks to 'masonic' like collusion at the highest levels of the party, reaching to the very Politburo itself.

In a society like China and within a group like the Chinese Communist Party, with it's inherent nature of suspicion, it would seem to have been impossible given what Bo and his family was doing for him to have gotten away with for so long. Either blind eyes where turned to it or, more than likely, the practice was so widespread to be considered the norm.

The CCP even has an oversight committee called the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China whose responsibility is the investigation and exposure of corruption and malfeasance among Communist Party of China members and to ensure the probity of high officials including members of the Politburo.

The extrapolation of this would mean that the Hus' and the Wens' of the CCP are themselves equally as guilty, be it in practice, or, at least by omission.

As Minxin Pei stated in a recent article in Project Syndicate

Personal misdeeds or character flaws did not trigger Bo’s fall from power; these were well known. He was simply a loser in a contest with those who felt threatened by his ambition and ruthlessness.

He went on to say
Bo, the former Party chief of Chongqing, has come to symbolize the systemic rot and dysfunction at the core of a regime often viewed as effective, flexible, and resilient.

In other words blind eyes were turned and only opened when Bo rose to a position of potential threat. What we therefore are witnessing with the Bo affair is the exposure of the internal rot in the CCP at the very centre, the pinnacle of it's power. A pyramid of rot at the lowest and highest levels. A rot, long perhaps suspected, but one, till now, unexposed as to its insidiousness and pervasiveness .

The errant school boys this time have got away with it. They have been one step ahead of the principal. Able to clear away the empty beer bottles and the spent cigarette butts they have however left the stench of their party for all to smell. Their stories have been agreed, a fall guy has been chosen as temporal sacrifice. This time it has been a close call but not the next.

The Bo Affair will not bring about the immediate fall of the CCP regime. It will not usher in a “Chinese Spring “, as some have predicted, but it does mark the beginning of the end. It marks the start of what will, over the next ten years under Xi's leadership, be a veritable scramble from pillars to posts for ways and means to forestall the inevitable.

A train wreck at Wenzhou last year took the shine off the CCP's 90th Anniversary celebrations.

A 'train wreck “ this year has stripped away the underlying skin to expose an apple rotten to it's core.

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