Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Policy implications of factional fighting in China

While most journalistic reports on the factional politics of China's leadership have focused on identifying the people in the various factions and looking for evidence of who is in and who is out, Mark Mackinnon's report in the Toronto Globe and Mail examines possible policy implications in the fall of Bo Xilai and his allies.

Bo Xilai’s fall signals victory for China’s reformers
The very public humiliation of Mr. Bo… has brought to the surface the decades-old split that pits a group of liberal-minded reformers like Premier Wen Jiabao against a hard-line wing of the party that believes it is time for China, after 20 years of unprecedented economic growth accompanied by widening inequality, to increase state control and turn back toward its socialist roots.

It’s the biggest rupture inside China’s ruling elite since 1989, when Zhao Ziyang was ousted as Communist Party chairman… The shift comes at a critical juncture, just months before the Communist Party will unveil its new leadership lineup…

After years of being the lone voice at the top advocating greater economic and political openness within China’s one-party system, the scandal in Chongqing has, at last, given Premier Wen the upper hand…

With Mr. Bo out of the picture, the liberal wing of the party is advancing proposals to privatize state-owned assets and open China’s financial sector to foreign competition. Meanwhile, Mr. Bo’s statist ideas are being sidelined…

Some worry that useful ideas are being purged along with the man. While Mr. Bo gained fame for his use of Maoist propaganda in Chongqing – as well as a no-holds-barred campaign against the city’s crime syndicates – the “Chongqing Model,” as the experiment came to be known, also included efforts to address China’s yawning urban-rural income gap through a trial reform of the country’s hated household registration system, one that finally allowed rural-born residents to claim the same rights as those born in the city…

The contrasting approach – the “Guangdong Model” – was on display in coastal Guangdong province, where local Communist Party boss Wang Yang focused his efforts on opening the economy and even allowing some non-government organizations to take root. Now, many expect the Guangdong Model will prevail simply because no one will dare express support for the Chongqing Model, lest it be interpreted as support for Mr. Bo…

Leftists and liberals alike find common ground on one point: that Mr. Bo’s case needs to be heard in public so that China can finally break the cycle of justice carried out behind the curtain. “This country has no rule of law because the leaders don’t follow the law,” said Tie Liu, a veteran Communist Party journalist who has backed Mr. Wen in his reform push. “This is why history keeps repeating itself in China.”

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