I wish we had three or four Cheng Li’s to bring perspective and insight into the Chinese leadership and factions. But, while there many excellent observers who comment on these issues, Dr. Cheng spends most of his time in this realm and produces a stream of excellent description and analysis.
After a slow start on Bo Xilai, Dr. Cheng has hit his stride on Bo’s fall and ensuing scandals. Many of his comments have been noted here in early posts.
Now, another, an interview published by The National Bureau of Asian Research and titled, ‘The Bo Xilai Crisis: A Curse or a Blessing for China.’ Despite the somewhat provocative title, most of the article is solid, meat and potatoes, discussion that situates Bo and the ‘princeling’ faction within Chinese politics, and notes that the faction is far from defeated.
Dr. Cheng even goes so far as to suggest that his faction used Bo for its ends, even if not especially liking or trusting him. And, that Bo’s enemies went beyond political rivals, ‘In fact, Bo had many enemies, including at least four major groups:
(1) liberal intellectuals, who often
regarded him not only as a Maoist, but also as a Nazilike leader who often singled out particular social
groups as targets;
(2) lawyers and legal professionals
alarmed at his roughshod treatment of Chinese legal
practices in Chongqing and Dalian;
(3) the majority
of political and military elites, who feared Bo did not
play according to the rules and would take China
down the wrong path; and
(4) entrepreneurs in China
and abroad alarmed at Bo’s anti-market tendencies,
evident in his rough handling of Wal-Mart stores in
The curse or blessing question comes at the end. Here’s Dr. Cheng’s take on the blessing:
The Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen
incident are two of the great disasters in the history
of the CCP, but in the aftermath of these events you
see opening and reform after the Cultural Revolution
and the acceleration of China’s market transition and integration with the outside world after Tiananmen, respectively. Positive political developments came out of these terrible events. There is hope that something similar may yet happen following the Bo crisis.
Now, the curse:
The Chinese public is still reeling from the shock
of these events. The CCP has been responsible for a
variety of political campaigns and serious mistakes
in its long history, but it is not generally known for
murder and assassination. But now, this scandal
has occurred in relation to one of China’s rising
political stars. We still do not know exactly how the
public will react, particularly since this has occurred
during a time of genuine dissatisfaction with official
corruption, state monopolies, economic disparity, a
lack of transparency and accountability, the privilege
of princelings, and other issues. Consequently, this is
a major legitimacy crisis for the CCP leadership as a
And, his outlook:
China must now either make
changes to be on the right side of history or be left
behind. The Bo Xilai crisis can be either a curse or
blessing for the CCP—a curse if the party pretends
that its rule can remain as before, but a blessing if the
party decides to transform itself.
Read more for the best analysis on the ongoing situation.