China’s Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to the US
While the ongoing affair in China surrounding would-be-politburo-standing-committee member Bo Xilai, is still unfolding, fellow princeling and Vice President, Xi Jinping, has warmed up for his future position as China’s paramount leader. I am sure there must have been some serious headache and sweating among aides in the Chinese delegation accompanying him on his journey to the west (Washington and Iowa) and back via the crisis stricken Eurozone (spending three days in Ireland). On Sunday, 19 February Xi was given a 40-minute tour of a family-run dairy farm at Sixmilebridge, County Clare. According to the first BBC World report I read, the Princeling was honored by the Irish farmer in a special way: “In Sixmilebridge, the Chinese vice-president had a newborn calf named in his honour.” The updated report http://bbc.in/xQxHHU, however, has nothing about this. Pity.
Institutionalization of leadership succession
The succession from incumbent President Hu Jintao and the Vice President Xi Jinping has been viewed as certain since 2008. When Hu Jintao took over from President Jiang Zemin ten years ago, that process of changing of the leadership guard was hailed as a sign of a mature Leninist political system. Institutionalization and rule of law, would be the new orderly way of Chinese politics.
Since the beginning of February, however, there have been lots of speculation about what the Vice Mayor of Chongqing and long-time henchman of Bo Xilai – Wang Lijun – actually told the American diplomats at the Consulate General in Chengdu — about Bo’s policies and methods to fight corruption, Bo’s, Wang’s and other senior leaders’ own implications in corruption scandals, and proclivities among the 5th generation leaders who are now rising to power?
During the last two years, 2009-2011, the nostalgic flirting with Maoism 1960s-style by Politburo Standing Committee hopeful, Chongqing Mayor and princeling Bo Xilai has caught the attention by both domestic Chinese and international media. Other party intellectuals and leaders on the other hand, have turned their eyeballs to the period before the most disastrous period of Maoist upheaval, terror, and human suffering. They look to the 1930s for ideological guidance, to light the torch that will guide the CCP in the difficult years ahead. This all seems natural, since the truth and wisdom must always be sought within the party. To search outside party perimeters is inherently hazardous for an elitist grouping such as a Leninist party. It would be detrimental for the cultivated identity as the self-appointed guardianship role of Chinese society and send out the wrong signals to the locked-in public sphere. But how much of this trend of looking back into the history of the CCP is really a return of ideology – after decades of Dengist pragmatism – or just playing poker in the run-up to the 2012 party congress? For sure, much about “red Chongqing” was about 玩政治, i.e. playing politics. Nevertheless, the tapping into the pool of concepts, ideas, and lived experience of Chinese political history today indicates something important. Quests of an ideological nature do take place during times of uncertainty, and in Chinese tradition a year of the dragon like 2012, means unexpected things will turn up.
Playing politics in the open is back
Ever since the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, the mainstream of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has since then focused on keeping the fringe forces of rightist liberals and leftist conservatives at bay. Deng Xiaoping always maintained, actually from 1978 and onwards, that a pragmatist center solution was the only way China could go – to avoid useless struggle and instead grow the economy for the benefit of all. For a concise layout concerning a return of the more open splits in Chinese politics today, read “Battle of men and ideas for party’s future” http://bit.ly/xKD21z
If the scandal with Bo Xilai’s once closest confidante, Wang Lijun, now interrogated by party central security in Beijing gains more momentum, it may topple not just Chongqing’s flamboyant Mayor, he may still drag others down in his fall. The long hot summer of 2012 will be very interesting to follow for everyone concerned about Chinese politics, the world economy and global politics more broadly