What’s going on in China? Can Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao prevail?
You read every day some comments, analysis and discussions about the upcoming elections in France and the United States. What do you hear about the upcoming change of leadership of the Communist party in the PR China (CPC)? Fact is that China will appoint new members for the standing committee in autumn 2012 and this next people’s congress has potential to change the world dramatically. Fact is, that there is massive infighting in China’s Communist Party between reformers and Maoists. What’s the outcome? Is China further reforming economy and politics – even at increased speed – or do we see a fall back into Maoist thinking? Given the dramatic of what’s going on in China, I’m more than surprised how little we can read in the daily newspapers – especially here in Switzerland. The story reads like a polit thriller and a case study how Chinese are applying the „36 strategems“. I do have a lot of questions and would expect more comments and analysis from our newspapers. How about you? Here’s an attempt to explain what is going on.
First time we heard about the infighting in the Communist Party was, when Wang Lijun, former head of the police in Chongqing, visited the US consulate in Chengdu. This was on February 6th, 2012. Until then, Bo Xilai, party chief of Chongqing branch, was a „princling“ to to be promoted into the Politburo Standing Committee of the CPC. Bo Xilai, son of Bo Yibo (one of the most powerful politicians in the 1990s), is a Maoist and adverse to the country’s market-based economy reforms.
Rumours say that Wang was not only accusing Bo Xilai of beeing corrupt and „the biggest gangster“ but he also informed the US consular that Bo is planning a complot against Xi Jinping, the designated new president. February 14th, Xi Jinping started his visit to the US for 4 days and met with Barack Obama. What was Xi told about the incident when Wang escaped to the US consulate? Did this speed up Bo Xilai’s downfall on March 15th?
Bo Xilai became very popular among Chinese with his campaign against organized crime, increased spending on welfare programs and his populist demeanor. That’s why Bo’s dismissal as the Chongqing party chief on March 15th created strong reactions among the public – which then finally resulted in temporary lockdown „for maintenance“ of social medias like Weibo and leftist websites on March 31st.
Did you know that Hu Jintao was visiting Cambodia and India during these days? Was Hu informed about this measure? Many people believe that not. They believe the censorship was initiated by Hu Jintao’s biggest opposer in the Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, responsible for the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee. Zhou was Bo Xilai’s biggest supporter. As soon as Hu returned to China, funny things happened. Weibo and other micro-blogging sites were available again and – most surprisingly – Chinese could suddenly use formerly banned search terms, such as „Falun Gong“ or „Live Organ Harvest“ and even „June Fourth Incident„. Is the internet the new battle field where Chinese politicians are demonstrating their power?
Zhou Yongkang is member of the „Shanghai Clique“, an informal group around former CPC General secretary Jiang Zemin. Jiang became General secretary right after the Tiananmen Square protests when hardliners gained back control, after Deng Xiaoping led China to more market economy. Small details about the Tiananmen Square protests: Deng was suddenly afraid and supported the decision to send the army to the square. Interesting, yet, that another person was strongly support a hard line: Bo Yibo. Jiang Zemin was the person who decided to suppress Falun Gong, a spiritual movement. While this organization is not above reproach, hundred thousands of people in China were detained, tortured or killed.
It’s foreseable that also Jiang Zemin will fall in disgrace very soon. He’s actually the person who’s on Hu Jintao’s and Wen Jiabao’s radar. Bo Xilai’s growing influence and power were definitely observed by Hu and Wen and Zhou Yongkang is leading a very powerful ministry and they were both supported by Jiang Zemin.
In order to understand what’s going on in China, it helps to be familiar with China’s art of using stratagems. If you want to better understand China’s politics, economy, even negotiation strategies, I strongly recommend to learn more about the 36 strategems and Chinese culture. Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao are mastering them and it seems that they have the situation very much under control.
It started with Wen Jiabao’s anwer on March 14th when he was asked to comment on Bo Xilai’s success in Chongqing. He said that the success is significant but the result of multiple administrations. Wen also critizised „moves to revive red culture“. The Premier publicly critizising Bo was already a clear signal, that the reformers had a victory, as such Bo’s dismissal on 15th was no surprise. „Point at the mulberry tree while cursing the locust tree“. Wen did not critisize Bo directly and personally but it was clear that he was the object.
Recently you could read that China started investigations against Bo Xilai’s second wife, Gu Kailai. The reason is the death of a British citizen, Neil Heywood. Now there are rumours that Gu was involved. Whether she was involved or not but starting the investigation right in this moment is a nice example of „ Besiege Wèi to rescue Zhào“, attack something your enemy holds dear. And it clearly shows, that Bo Xilai is at the end of his political carreer.
Attacking Bo and Zhou itself is another example of this stratagem where you’re fighting a war against a proxy, while the real target is not yet attacked, in this case Jiang Zemin.
Did you read reports that Bo Guagua – the son – is living an excessive life, driving Ferrari while studying at the best universities? That’s his father earns an estimated 22’000 USD per year but tuition for Harvard Kennedy School in America is 70’000 USD? Did you hear, Bo Xilai and his wife did transfer their assets abroad, something like 1’000’000’000 USD? „Make something out of nothing“, another stratagem. It doesn’t matter whether these are romours only or if they are true, all these rumours helped that the public opinion is not anymore in favour of Bo Xilai. PS. Some stories which had been declared as rumours finally had been proved to be true.
Remember the censorship of the internet late March and the phase where some forbidden phrases could be searched? „Tossing out a brick to get a Jade gem“. Opening the internet definitely helped to calm down the crowd and to change the public opinion.
There are many more reports and rumours on Chinese social networks, about tanks in the government district in Beijing, Zhou Yongkang beeing arrested, it’s everything about „Disturb the water and catch a fish“. Create unsecurity, even concerns, create confusion, finally stand up as the winner.
Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang have no political future. Xi Jiping will become Hu Jintao’s decessor. But the infights are not over, not as long as Jang Zemin has some power. If you’re missing comments, explanations, analysises, editorials in our newspapers – as I do – then learn about the 36 strategems and you will better understand what’s going on. And the next people’s congress does have a bigger impact on our global politics and economy than the election of the French or American president.
Update 1 – April 18th, 2012
There are new informations about the past of Bo Xilai, read the article in „The Telegraph„.
Are there some similarities with Mr. Thaksin in Thailand? Bo supported the city’s poor and received their admiration, as Mr. Thaksin did.
About myself: I did work in international positions for more than two decades, making business in about 50 countries. I was managing global teams. Many years ago I learnt about the 36 strategems and started to use them – with success. I’m married to a Chinese and obviously became deeply interested in Chinese history, culture, politics and economy. Today I’m a mentor and coach in various areas, one of them is leadership in multi-cultural environments.