Some Wednesday China links:
South China Morning Post is reporting that disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai’s trial will begin imminently, perhaps as soon as this week. According to the report, “sources with knowledge of internal meetings” say that a meeting was held in Bo’s former power base of Chongqing detailing the charges that will be brought against him, which is usually a sign that the actual trial is imminent.
Bo hasn’t been seen or heard from since March 2011. SCMP says he will face charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power and is expected to get a life sentence or suspended death sentence.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
The trial might explain the sudden reemergence of Jiang Zemin. This week China’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that ex-President Jiang Zemin had met with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on July 3 in Shanghai. Besides expressing confidence that the U.S. and China can get past the “contradictions” in their relationship, Jiang reportedly spent much of his remarks profusely praising Xi Jinping for his leadership.
“Xi Jinping is a very capable and intelligent state leader,” Jiang was quoted as saying. Although much of his praise related to Xi’s handling of the recent violence in Xijiang Province, analysts have been debating the true reason for Jiang’s rare public appearance, with many believing Jiang felt the need to bolster Xi’s legitimacy with his vote of confidence amid a slowing economy.
This is certainly possible but the announcement about Bo’s trial offers a different possibility. Jiang was viewed as one of Bo’s patrons owing to Jiang’s relationship with Bo’s father, a revolutionary leader. As the Jamestown Foundation’s Willy Lam explained last fall, “Hu Jintao had been prevented from going after Bo Xilai by Jiang Zemin and other powerful patrons, who didn’t want him to be subjected to serious criminal charges and had lobbied quite successfully for lenient treatment.”
Thus, with Bo’s trial apparently proceeding, the former president may have wanted to reaffirm his support for the decision to prosecute him.
Nevertheless, Xi pushed ahead with his strong leadership on Wednesday when the government issued a statement prohibiting government departments, Communist Party agencies and state-owned companies from building any new office buildings for five years. This even included a halt on buildings that have been approved but for which construction has yet to begin. The statement implored the state-party entities to instead use the money to develop the economy and improve public welfare.
Tech in Asia reports that in its quest to woo foreign audience, Sina Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-like website, is now allowing users in Taiwan and Hong Kong to sign up for Weibo using their Facebook account information. The integration goes so far as to allow cross-postings. The feature isn’t available at this time in North America or mainland China, where Facebook is banned.
Stratfor Founder and CEO George Friedman writes in his Geopolitical Weekly that the growing consensus that China’s economy is headed for a major slowdown will cause investors and businesses to act in ways that will exacerbate Beijing’s existing difficulties. Friedman and Stratfor have argued that China’s economic model was unsustainable and likely to crash long before that became the cool thing to do….sometime last week.
Statfor’s Senior Geopolitical Chief, Robert Kaplan, also has an interesting analysis on the potential global ramifications of China’s slowdown, but his piece is behind a paywall.
Every Westerner’s favorite Chinese dissident, Ai Weiwei is talking Edward Snowden (again).
Many in China, on the other hand, have been discussing a port visit President Xi made to Hebei Province over the weekend. The attention has circled around that fact that when it began to rain, President Xi simply rolled up his pant legs, grabbed an umbrella and kept on speaking with the port workers. Quartz has got the story.