Scripted Press Conference With Firecracker in the Wings

March 18, 2014 Updated: March 18, 2014

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s press conference at the conclusion of the National People’s Congress on March 13 lasted 1 hour and 50 minutes. The whole process was very plain and lacked any challenging questions. 

Subtract the time occupied by translation and questions, and Li used less than an hour to answer questions that touched on such topics as environment, foreign policy, civil issues, and the economy.

The questions only provided a platform for Li to announce policies. No one raised questions about the sensitive matter on everyone’s minds, that of Zhou Yongkang, the former security czar—nor could they ask about this. Journalists were warned by officials not to raise the question with Li, or they would have their access revoked afterward.

The question had been addressed, albeit obliquely, on March 1 by Lü Xinhua, the spokesman for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an official advisory body. Lü responded to a question from a reporter with the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post in a way that all but confirmed that Zhou would be punished.

After stressing that the regime would definitely give severe punishment to whoever has violated Party discipline and the law, no matter how high the position is, Lü’s conclusion, though, was the part that left no doubt in anyone’s mind.

“I can only answer you in this fashion,” he told the reporter. “You know what I’m talking about.” 

Indeed the questions asked at the Li Keqiang press conference were all important, but Li’s answers already had been put on the table before the conference. He would not and could not give a different answer, one that deviated from the tone and substance of the congress. 

In other words, he could not provide anything new. Those journalists could find the standard answers from Xinhua News Agency, People’s Daily, or China’s Central TV Station (CCTV).

Root Cause of the Problems

Looking from another angle, all those problems in the environment, the economy, and so forth are caused by China’s political system, or to put it bluntly, by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

In China, all major problems are related to politics. Although this is also true in democratic countries, there is a major difference. If the ruling party does not perform, it will lose in the next election, and things may change around in a few years’ time. The party could come back again, and the economic problems would hardly cause the party to be dissolved or the political leader to lose his or her life.

It is a different case in communist countries. The dissolving of the Soviet Union and the change in eastern European countries had direct ties to the economic situation at that time. 

This is the reason why the CCP puts a lot of emphasis on economic development, even at the cost of environmental devastation, the sacrifice of civil rights, and diplomatic conflict. All these are committed in order to ensure the CCP’s ongoing one-party dictatorship.

One-party dictatorship is not only an opportunity for corruption, it is also the means of shoring up the CCP’s security. Crime and sin can be covered up only by power, people can be brainwashed only by state-run propaganda machinery under power, and rebellion can be crushed only by power. 

Otherwise, the Party, which has created mountains of miscarriage of justice and committed sins of genocide in its 60 years of rule, would lose its position of control. The Party would be dissolved, and its various levels of leaders would have to pay for their crimes.

Cliques and Splits

As the journalists may have understood at the Li press conference, one must first pay attention to the regime’s recent direction. And the key factor affecting such direction is very obvious now since the case of Wang Lijun has exposed Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang. It has led to the first high-level split in the CCP’s 60 years of rule.

Yes, similar things had happened before: The Party had named a few figures as forming an “anti-Party clique” or labeled a few high-ranking members as “splitting the Party,” but those have been struck down, such as Liu Shoaqi (once Mao’s left hand), Lin Biao (once Mao’s official successor), and Zhao Ziyang (once top leader in name, during Deng Xiaoping’s rule). 

All of those had far less power compared to their opponents Mao and Deng. So classifying them as “anti-Party” or “splitting the Party” was only to serve a political purpose. They did not actually pose a real threat or challenge to the Party.

Foundation-Shaking Duel

However, the serious cases triggered by Wang Lijun are different. Wang was a close associate of Bo Xilai, whose highly publicized trial last year led to imprisonment.

The fight that is shaking the foundation of the CCP’s rule is the duel between the Xi Jinping faction and the Jiang Zemin faction, which includes Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang.

Zhou Yongkang had once controlled over 1 million armed police and had solid financial resources generated from massive corruption and a 700 billion yuan annual “social stability” fund. Jiang Zemin, Zeng Qinghong, and Bo Xilai have wide ties in the high levels of the military and control of the secret security apparatus and the propaganda system controlled by Li Changchun and Liu Yunshan. 

With all these resources, this Jiang faction, which had planned an unsuccessful coup, controls unprecedented power. 

So the threat faced by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang is unprecedented. The Zhou Yongkang case is the key in the fight between the two factions.

The national congress has just ended, and the Zhou Yongkang case will be finally unveiled soon. I believe that when the Zhou case becomes the top topic in the world’s media, those journalists who attended Li Keqiang’s press conference will realize which story they should have been tracking down at that time.

Read the original Chinese article. 

Zhang Tianliang, Ph.D. writes on China’s history and politics. He contributes to a variety of publications, including the New York-based New Tang Dynasty Television and Voice of America’s Chinese service.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.