Saturday, 24 August 2013

Bo Xilai in the dock

Bo at trial.  Note the taller police.  I've looked Bo
in the eye and he's about my height, nearly 6'4" (192cm),
so they must have got real giants, or they're standing on
boxes, specifically to reduce his stature, bodily and political. 
My old mate Bo Xilai's trial started yesterday and it's in all the international media: IHT, BBC and so on. The best report of the events leading up to his days in dock is in the local South China Morning Post, which has the best English language in-depth reporting on China, full stop.
For example: The rise and fall of Bo Xilai, by Keith Zhai. [pdf]
A new Class Struggle?
The trial has also raised the spectre of renewed "class struggle", that we thought had been put to bed in the recent decades of rapid economic growth.  But here it is again, the struggle between left and ultra left, (or "right", take your pick) vs the ultra-left?  (Leninists vs Maoists? Authoritarian bureaucrats/meritocrats vs old-guard ideologues? "Capitalists" vs "Communists"?  "Constitutionalists" vs "Party supremacists"?, or whatever….).  Not good for the future of China, methinks. 
The basic struggle seems to be revolve around two issues: "Constitutionalism" and the "civic society". The ultra left, as represented by the "Bo faction" is against both of these.  In other words against the Rule of Law ("Constitutionalism") and agains "civic society", that is development of the sorts of NGO organisations, charities, and citizens groups of all sorts, which those in the ultra-left see as a threat to the Party's unchallenged rule. Still, the ordinary citizen seems to like what he did, not just in Dalian, but later in Chongqing.
A good summary of this, again in the SCMP, is this one: What propaganda against constitutionalism tells us about China's 'new' government. ("Recycled Ideals" in the print version). [pdf

My meetings with Bo:
I know Bo and, more to the point, he knows me.  That is to say, if one asked him "do you know the Australian Peter F..?" he would certainly answer "yes".  (Though I doubt that I'm high in his mind at the moment...).
How I know this is that when he was Commerce Minister in 2004, he came to Hong Kong for a few days. He had a lunch at which he invited various local luminaries, including Taipans like Li Ka-shing (Asia's riches man), property tycoon Lee Shau-kee and the heads of various other major companies in Hong Kong, maybe 100 in all.  And me.  Sat in between a couple of these major worthies.
Bo first walked round the room chatting to the guests, in Mandarin.
When he came to me, I mentioned the time we'd met in Dalian in 1995, and said that in addition to opening the Austrade office there, a "joint venture" had resulted from the visit: namely that I'd married the person that I had introduced to him there, and that the result of the "joint venture" was my marrying her and that we now had a son...
Bo stood up to make a speech, which he did in Mandarin.  He started off by singling out various of the guests for a few words.  And the first -- the first! -- he mentioned was me!  Holy fall-off-chair, Batman! He mentioned the story I'd just told him, in the same terms -- of the successful "joint venture", asked me to stand and take the applause of the guests.
A memorable moment, I tell you!
Well, as I said in my earlier post about our first meeting, it was my wife who was right about him from the outset. She'd said -- in 1995 -- that he would come to grief sometime, both because of his "too western" way of politicking, and because of his leftist-nationalist leanings, which even then she'd intuited.  In 2004 Bo was on his way up and still going places, so at that time I'd seemed to be the one getting his career right -- that he'd make it to the very top. He very nearly did. Just a few stupidities by Neil Heywood, by Bo's wife Gu Kailai and by Bo himself, toppled him.
And whatever his feisty contention [pdf] of the charges against him, he'll do time, no doubt.
And whatever the BBC and other media are saying about the relative "openness" of the trial, it doesn't measure up to that of the Gang of Four trial in 1980-81 was far more open -- even allowing live TV coverage, which this one does not.