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China: End of Chongqin Model Upon the Removal of Bo Xilai?

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

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:

薄下了,倒也不必心灾乐祸,要想想为什么?人家在山城能搞出那么大一动静!这背后是什么体制?以及,左派诉诸于的那些符号,有些,其实是民众真实需求的!

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:说的好,现在是真正反思文革,及薄书记为什么可以在重庆为所欲为的时候了。这是必要的启蒙和防止未来权力失控造成灾难的基础工作。理性, 比任何情绪及抱怨都重要。

@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:权力斗争的结果,而并不是人民或者法制的胜利,仅此而已。

@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:有两条路,一条就是政治改革,可以让很多问题迎刃而解。一条就是唱红打黑,可以解决些问题,但是这条路是饮鸩止渴,人民只关心问题有没有得到解决。所以之所以可以唱打这么久,关键是因为第一条路没人去走。

@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:如果选举,必有信息和新闻自由!有了新闻自由,薄西来的那些罪行、腐败、黑打,也就会暴露在光天化日之下!它的谎言就会被戳穿,怎么可能被选上?

@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:

薄固然有其僭越之心,但他充其量是一个棋子,是一个时代一些人期待的符号。他个人断然无法在西南一隅造出那么大的动静,而且曾几何时,打开电视多地都是红色歌曲和电影。他在代人趟路,有人在用他来尝试汇聚一种力量。他同时也是一种体制悲剧的写照:即使一个封疆大吏,功劳苦劳忠心也难免被弃的命运。

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:先把这个棋子拿掉也好,可以让棋局的另一方的玩家明白,想逆转改革开放,想阻挡人民追求民主自由是死路一条。党为了自己的颜面,有的人可能不会被赶下台,表面体面的退休,但他在人民心中已是狗屎一堆。

@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:薄现在一定在想要是自由选举该多好,死也死个明白!现在这样说拿下就那下。呵呵!!!

@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:

接到不少重庆电话.我为重庆人民感到高兴,为他们祝福.虽然一些被小恩小惠蒙住双眼,不明全局,希望二次土改的底层唱红百姓会迷茫一阵子,但随着重庆基础经济被严重破坏的真相逐渐曝光,虚假宣传被揭穿,他们也会明白薄倒底是在造福人民还是满足个人野心.这次调整的重大意义会日益显示出来

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:丫有胆到重庆百姓中去这么说不?别妈逼的躲屋子里打几个字来证明自己英明神武!

@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:我觉得现在的人动不动代表别人,你有什么资格替重庆人开心,好不好重庆人才知道。

@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:请问重庆经济怎么被破坏?小恩小惠总好过一穷二白!还能比薄来之前坏吗?

@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?

四海为家东方傲:恭喜你,拥护影帝的五毛,

@四海为家东方傲: Congratulations, a 50-center who supports the best actor Premier Wen

身在地狱–心在天堂:的确,我们需要看到薄给重庆市经济到来的一些负面影响,这是必然的。打黑,黑这个东西它本来就代表着一个庞大的经济体,很多东西短期来看确实会对基础经济有很大的损害,但我们有没有往长远一些看看,在除恶惩奸的过程中,薄书记也为重庆打造了更好的经济土壤,这是功在千秋的事情!!!

@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.

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