China is in the grips of infighting among Communist Party leaders that threatens to spill into public struggles unseen in a generation.
The increasingly bitter divide between contending factions reached new levels this week when a key ally to one of the Party’s most aggressive cadres was taken back to Beijing by high-ranking officials for investigation.
That cadre, Politburo member Bo Xilai, has launched an aggressive campaign against organized crime in parallel with a campaign to reignite Maoist communist zeal.
Such campaigns, normally only launched by the Party leader, are widely seen as an effort to reverse Bo’s declining political fortunes and secure a spot on the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the nine-member elite organ that controls the Chinese Communist Party. At the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party later this year, a new head of the CCP will be selected and the membership of the Standing Committee reshuffled.
But Bo’s effort looks deeply undermined after his right-hand man, Wang Lijun, 52, came under investigation for corruption by the central authorities and is widely rumored to be selling out Bo, his old boss, in efforts to save himself.
Click this tag to read The Epoch Times’ collection of articles on the Chinese Regime in Crisis. Intra-CCP politics are a challenge to make sense of, even for veteran China watchers. Here we attempt to provide readers with the necessary context to understand the situation.
Wang Lijun was first of seven deputy mayors and top cop at the Chongqing Public Security Bureau until Feb. 2 when he was relieved of duties with the police and demoted to the seventh ranked deputy mayor responsible for education. The demotion now appears connected to his being investigated for corruption by a higher-positioned political rival.
But Wang’s fall took a dramatic turn when he fled Chongqing to Chengdu City about 170 miles away and hid out in the U.S. Consulate as some 70 police cars from Chongqing surrounded the building.
Wang later surrendered to authorities from Beijing rather than the police, raising rumors that his split from Bo had put his life in jeopardy.
The oft-repeated narrative among Chinese bloggers and unofficial news sources—which have been right so far on the sensational events unfolding—is that Wang was prepared to sell Bo out after Bo began arresting all Wang’s associates, three of whom have reportedly died.
Bo and Wang’s Sordid History
Few can speak about Bo with as much authority as Wang Lijun. Bo has kept Wang by his side through several posts and more than one bloody campaign.
The two rose to prominence by eagerly complying with former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin’s crackdown on Falun Gong. Wang, in particular, has been linked with reports of forced organ harvesting, while Bo pushed officials under his watch into some of the most horrific crimes against Falun Gong adherents, including having 18 female adherents thrown naked into a male prison cell.
Knowledge of these abuses and official corruption gave Wang ample ammunition on Bo.
Bo was removed from his position as commerce minister just as he was angling to get a spot on the Standing Committee during the 17th National Congress in 2007. His fall was largely due to the death of his influential father just months before, but also because current Premier Wen Jiabao argued Bo had attracted too much attention internationally for his persecution of Falun Gong, being subject to over a dozen lawsuits around the world, according to a 2007 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks from the U.S. consulate general in Shanghai.
Bo was demoted to govern the city province of Chongqing as Party secretary at that Congress.
The cable cited a source that said sending Bo to Chongqing “puts an ambitious, arrogant and widely disliked competitor for a top position in a trouble-filled position far from Beijing.”
The cable also revealed the seeds of the struggle now playing out. It notes that in demoting Bo, Hu Jintao was able to get his own ally, Wang Yang, the previous Party secretary of Chongqing, out of harm’s way from the many challenges facing Chongqing.
Wang Yang was placed in the relative safety and prominence of Guangdong Province, also as Party secretary. The move was seen as a promotion, better positioning Wang Yang for a slot on the Standing Committee. Wang Yang and Bo are often seen as opposing contenders among the next generation of Party leaders vying for a spot on the Standing Committee.
Continued on the next page: Hitting Rivals Through Corruption