The former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, has been removed from his post and replaced by Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, state media Xinhua news reported today (March 15, 2012).
Since former Chongqing Police Chief Wang Lijun's secretive meeting at the United States consulate in Chengdu in February, the future of Bo Xilai's political career has become a key to revealing the ongoing power struggle in Beijing. The final removal of Bo from his post may signify the end of the Chongqing model, which adopts a Maoist populist approach to justify a hard-fist crackdown on organized crime but gives immense power to the government and police which overrides the judicial system.
Bo Xilai. Photo from Sound of Hope
Premier Wen Jiabao's farewell address on March 14, in which he called for political reform and warned against the upheaval of “cultural revolution” can serve as an explanation for Bo's downfall. However, does it mean that China will be more open now to initiating political reform?
Below are some immediate reactions from Sina Weibo. Si Weijiang, a lawyer from Shanghai, started off a conversation [zh] on his account with:
Bo has been removed. There is no need to be happy about the news. We need to reflect on the whole thing, why he was able to launch such a big political campaign in the mountain city (Chongqing). What kind of political system is it that supports his move? In addition, the symbols that the Leftists have adopted have to a certain extent addressed the real needs of the people.
His comment instantly attracted a lot of discussion:
@北野的理想国Well spoken. We really need to reflect upon the Cultural Revolution and why secretary Bo could do whatever he likes in Chongqing. This is fundamental to our enlightenment and the prevention of future political disasters. Rationality is more important than emotion and complaints.
@官员财产公示：This is just the outcome of a power struggle, not the victory of the people or the judicial system.
@智慧城邦: There are two ways. One is political reform, which will solve many problems. Another is singing red songs and cracking down on organized crime, which can solve some problems temporarily, but leaves the ultimate concern of people unaddressed. The reason why they've been able to sing red songs for so long is because no one has taken the first path yet.
@倚苍天屠巨龙：If we were to have elections, we'd need to protect freedoms of information and the press. With press freedom, the crimes and corruption committed by Bo would be exposed in daylight. Once lies are uncovered, there is no way he could be elected.
Guo Fengfeng, also from Shanghai depicts Bo as a tragic figure [zh] under the current political system:
Bo is ambitious but he is also a pawn or a symbol which fulfills some people's expectations. As an individual, there was no way for him to start such a political campaign in the southwest part of China. For a long period of time, TV programs and movies all became political propaganda. He is either just paving the way for others or someone is using him to generate populist support. He is a tragic figure in this political system. As a high-ranking official in the border area, he cannot escape being abandoned despite all the efforts he has made.
Below are some of the conversations triggered by Guo's remark:
@常见常乐：It is good to remove the pawn. It gives a signal to the players that whoever tries to stop political reforms and democracy will face a dead end. The party, for the sake of saving his face, may not release him for his duty and let him retire. But in the eyes of the public, he is just a piece of dog shit.
@笨笨爱唠叨：Bo probably desires a democratic system now, so that people will know exactly what has happened. Except that now everything is being manipulated in the dark. Hehe.
Indeed, Bo does have his supporters. Many Chongqing netizens reacted strongly to reformist lawyer Chen Youxi's comment [zh] on Bo's removal, for example:
Received many calls from Chongqing. I really feel happy for the people of Chongqing and bless them for their future. Although, some are blinded by some policy benefits and could not see the whole picture. I hope that people who are confused by the red songs and the second stage of land reforms can soon recover their sight from the political propaganda and see the dark side of Chongqing's economy. They will then understand whether Bo is serving the people, or fulfilling his own ambition. The significance of his removal will be revealed soon.
Below are some of the strong reactions to Chen's comments:
@胡浥尘：If you have guts, say this in front of the Chongqing people. Don't hide behind the computer to prove that you are right and smart.
@阿瑾zj: People are so eager to represent others these days. How can you feel happy for Chongqing people? Chongqing people know how they feel.
@无米巧妇: How bad is Chongqing's economy now? Some benefit is better than people living in extreme poverty. What can be worse then the time before Bo arrived in Chongqing?
@身在地狱–心在天堂: Right, we have to see the negative impact of Bo's government on Chongqing's economy. Cracking down on organized crime means cracking down on an underground economy, which brings harm to the overall economy. But in the long run, getting rid of the mafias will create a better environment for the future development of Chongqing.