Politics & Int'l Affairs

Wen Jiabo And Bo Xilai: Part Of The Backstory

I have not written about the fall of Bo Xilai (although I did crack a bottle of champagne) because I believe that the real story is not about Bo’s flamboyence or his Public Security chief, but about behind-the-scenes factional wrangling for China’s direction. Information about that factional wrangling will come out slowly if at all.

But, while I was waiting, I read an excellent article that outlines the backstory of Wen Jiabo and Bo Xilai’s emnity,  ’The Revenge of Wen Jiabao–The ouster of Chongqing boss Bo Xilai was 30 years in the making — a long, sordid tale of elite families and factions vying for the soul of the Chinese Communist Party,’ by John Garnaut.

30 years is a long time to hold a grudge.

From Premier Wen’s point of view:

Indirectly, but unmistakably, Wen defined Bo as man who wanted to repudiate China’s decades-long effort to reform its economy, open to the world, and allow its citizens to experience modernity. He framed the struggle over Bo’s legacy as a choice between urgent political reforms and “such historical tragedies as the Cultural Revolution,” culminating a 30-year battle for two radically different versions of China, of which Bo Xilai and Wen Jiabao are the ideological heirs.In Wen’s world, bringing down Bo is the first step in a battle between China’s Maoist past and a more democratic future as personified by his beloved mentor, 1980s Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang. His words blew open the facade of party unity that had held since the massacres of Tiananmen Square.

The article goes on to detail the close relationship between Premier Wen and CCP Chief Hu, as well as Chief Hu’s history and factional battles throughout the Cultural Revolution.

The concluding paragraph sums up Premier Wen’s efforts:

Wen Jiabao sees Bo’s downfall as a pivotal opportunity to pin his reformist colors high while the Communist Party is too divided to rein him in. He is reaching out to the Chinese public because the party is losing its monopoly on truth and internal roads to reform have long been blocked. Ironically, he is doing so by leading the public purging of a victim who has no hope of transparent justice, because the party to which he has devoted his life has never known any other way.

All laudable. But in the world of Chinese factional politics, it is often the public who suffer most.

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  1. David E. Miller writes on

    Re: your final observation–so what else is new? Consider Thucydides, commenting on the Athenian dialogue with the small, weak island of Melos: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

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