The Ouster of Bo Xilai Is Only the Beginning

March 20, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao speaks
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao speaks during a news conference following the close of National People's Congress (NPC) at The Great Hall Of The People on March 14, in Beijing, China. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

The news conference at the last day of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing went slowly when Premier Wen Jiabao answered questions raised by the reporters. Two hours passed, and Wen ignored former Minister of Foreign Affairs Li Zhaoxin’s reminder of the time and extended the conference.

He still had something to say. Finally, when the reporter from Reuters raised the question about Wang Lijun, the former police chief of Chongqing who attempted to defect at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, Wen, as well as the audience watching the TV broadcast, seemed relieved. He was waiting for that question.

About the Wang Lijun case, Wen said, “We will give the people an answer to the results of the investigation and the handling [of the case], so that it can withstand the test of law and history,” according to Reuters.

UPDATE: Zhou Yongkang Lost Power Struggle, Say Chinese Netizens 
(Mar. 22)

This is the first time that one of the top leaders directly addressed the issue since Wang entered the consulate on Feb. 6. Wen also referred to Bo Xilai, saying, “The present Chongqing municipal Party committee and the municipal government must reflect seriously and learn a lesson from the Wang Lijun incident.”

At this point, most people realized that Wang Lijun was no longer the issue. Declaring the result of the investigation and the formal conclusion, both from the Party and from the government, is only a matter of time. Now, Wen was as much as saying that the issue before the Party concerns Bo Xilai’s fate. People just didn’t expect that the result would come so quickly.

The next day, March 15, Xinhua News Agency, the official mouthpiece, announced the “Central” decision that “Comrade Bo Xilai no longer holds the concurrent post of secretary of CCP Chongqing Committee.” Usually, “Central” refers to the CCP Central Committee (CCPCC) or its Politburo, not the government.

The announcement didn’t give a reason why Bo was removed, but a recording has surfaced that purports to give an explanation. A circular from the Office of the CCPCC that explained Bo’s firing was said to have been read in a meeting of the Chongqing Party and government officials.

The circular said, “Wang Lijun himself takes the responsibility directly for the incident. As the secretary of the CCP Chongqing Committee, Comrade Bo Xilai takes the main leader’s responsibility.”

Some have doubted the authenticity of the circular, but after listening to the whole recording, I believe that the recording is authentic. It had to be recorded at the real meeting. The circular states that Bo demoted Wang Lijun because Bo tried to cover up an investigation that touched on Bo’s family. Wang told Bo that one of his investigators submitted his resignation due to pressure.

For those who are familiar with Chinese politics, this reason doesn’t make sense as an explanation for why Wang Lijun, a veteran police chief, couldn’t handle accusations of corruption against his boss’s family. This should be the basic requirement for a police officer, or any official. But the Central CCP Office used this explanation because it wanted to cover up the real reason, which might cause more trouble in a situation that was already bad enough.

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.

Two Lines

The situation is far from the end. Both Wen’s answer at the NPC press conference and the circular only name Bo Xilai as responsible for the Wang Lijun incident. But the leader’s responsibility is not a strong enough reason for removing a provincial-level Party secretary.

What Wen Jiabao added after answering the Reuters reporter’s question probably gave some hint. He mentioned the Party’s decision to conclude several historic issues in 1978, and then he said, “We’ve taken the major decision of conducting reform and opening up in China, a decision that’s crucial for China’s future and destiny.”

In the press conference, Wen also spoke of how “the mistakes of the Cultural Revolution and feudalism have not been completely eliminated.” It is hard not to connect Wen’s speech with Bo Xilai’s “singing red songs” campaign. Bo’s campaign in Chongqing to organize the mass singing of Maoist-era communist songs was most controversial for the way in which it suggested a return to the days of the Cultural Revolution.

Wen’s remarks changed the entire meaning of the Wang Lijun affair. In bringing up the Party’s decision to commit to reform and opening up in the context of Wang Lijun, while criticizing the Cultural Revolution, Wen made the basis of the competition with Bo not merely one of a competition for power.

In criticizing Bo as Maoist, Wen reintroduced into the Party what had not been seen since Mao’s time—a struggle between two ideological lines.

Wen’s invocation of the 1978 decision is not that simple. That decision never fully negated any of Mao’s political campaigns, nor Mao himself. The Cultural Revolution was partially negated only because it damaged the Party itself and many Party officials.

The Party’s political line is one of self-contradiction made up of different theories promulgated by each successive paramount leader, including Mao’s class struggle, Deng’s “white cat, black cat, any cat that catches mice is a good cat,” Jiang Zemin’s theory of “three represents,” and Hu’s scientific-development concept.

As long as the Party has this mixture of contradictory theories in the Party Charter, which is referred to as the Party’s constitution, anyone can claim that he is following the Party line.

Continued on the next page: Conspiracy

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