I talked a couple of weeks back about Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai, and how his crackdown on crime and graft had prompted some criticism for being heavy-handed, not least from the group ‘Chinese Human Rights Defenders’, which suggested a number of suspects caught up in the crackdown had effectively been tortured.
Well, Bo last week defended the tactics employed against triads in the area and dismissed criticism as showing off and ‘spilling things (to smear the crackdown) from time to time.’
According to the South China Morning Post, Bo made the comments in response to questions posed during a meeting with high school students from around the country.
Bo is quoted as saying:
‘Some people praised our triad crackdown as bold and strategic, but our strategy is actually one of “not having a strategy”…We just charge ahead, handle the cases according to law, do whatever we should…and not be swayed by what other people say in our determination to convict these criminals.’
The article suggests that the rigorous defence, and Bo’s decision to later conclude his comments with revolutionary references to Mao Zedong and Karl Marx on the joy of struggle, indicate that Bo is determined to defend both the project and his political capital.
But as one analyst noted, Bo’s rhetoric appears to have shifted from legal procedures to a win-at-all-costs approach that fails to even pay lip service to respecting the law.
Meanwhile, an interesting piece today in Open Democracy by Chatham House’s Kerry Brown suggests that Bo may already at least have the advantage of standing out in a crop of future leaders that’s generally otherwise lacking ‘charisma, communication skills and an aptitude for public engagement.’
Brown says that Bo is one of only two members of the full Politburo (along with Li Yuanchao, secretary of the CPC Jiangsu Provincial Committee and chairman of the Standing Committee of the Jiangsu Provincial People's Congress) who are fluent in English.
Writing with Loh Su-hsing, Brown argues that this insularism (none of the 62 provincial heads has received an academic degree outside China) could pose real problems for a future leadership in a country where ‘the international demands…are becoming more pressing and multifaceted, the aspirations of the population higher and (in line with its changing profile) diverse. The Communist Party too, whose survival over the two post-cold-war decades reflects its adaptability as well as tenacity, must evolve correspondingly.’
Will Bo bring some of the same zeal for reform to his next political post as he is exhibiting on getting there?