02 Apr 2012

A Populist Challenged China’s Leadership, And Lost

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Bo Xilai in happier days

Libertarian Justin Raimondo explains the recent fall of Chinese communist “princeling” Bo Xilai.

Bo went after the corrupt head of the local Communist party’s judicial branch, Wen Qiang, former deputy chief of the local police. Wen was found guilty of protecting the gangsters, taking bribes, and rape: he was duly executed. At the time, the Peoples’ Daily, the official voice of the Communist Party, praised these actions, but the central party leadership was not happy. Here was a charismatic and – worst of all – populist figure, who was gaining public support on the strength of political campaigns that, they say, resembled the dark days of the Cultural Revolution, when the country was enveloped in chaos.

Bo’s various campaigns, however, also resembled the efforts of a political party, such as one might see if China allowed multiparty democracy. Here was Bo offering up his own “Chongqing model” – in implicit opposition to the “Guangdong model” favored by the party’s Eastern elites, which emphasized exports over targeting the huge domestic market. Bo’s initiatives were bold, in stark contrast to the timid “reforms” preferred by “pragmatic” party leaders. In the days before his ouster, Bo declared China was ready to move toward a multiparty system: “We need to take the road to democratic rule.” A week later, he was ousted, his whereabouts unknown. …

Having been stripped of his post, it appears he will lose his seat on the Politburo, and the lesson here is clear for any other aspiring populist leader who dares challenge the Beijing bureaucrats: don’t do it. What Western observers should take away from all this is that the Chinese gerontocracy is as brittle as an over-baked fortune cookie, and living in fear of the populist giant that shows worrying signs of restlessness, especially in the still-impoverished countryside.

Read the whole thing.

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