The disintegration of the giant Soviet Union took everyone by surprise. The reasons for the disintegration remain a mystery for most analysts.
Perhaps we Chinese, with a history of quite a few disintegrations, may understand it better.
Like China with a long history of feudal autocracy, in the Soviet Union, there was not only a central autocracy but also various levels of local autocracies.
When the central autocrat is weak, he may be replaced by a local autocrat stronger than all other local autocrats, or the autocratic state is divided by various local autocrats into a number of autocracies.
What happened in the Soviet Union was precisely that.
Before Gorbachev came to power, the Soviet Union consisted of one central autocracy and 16 local autocracies referred to as “member republics”. When Gorbachev conducted a democratic reform, he was unable to control local autocrats.
As a result, the Soviet Union disintegrated into almost the same number of autocracies as that of its member “republics”. Some of them have really turned into democracies, but others are only democracies in name but autocracies in essence.
Deng Xiaoping established China’s core system, a centralised collect leadership with a core who has the final say. In my book “Tianamen’s Tremendous Achievements”, I call it the CCP Dynasty, the Party’s empire with its core functioning as its emperor.
At that time, as conservatives were the powerful majority in the Party, only a reformist core as powerful as Deng would be able to carry on Deng’s reform. That was Deng’s plan. It worked. Deng’s successor Jiang Zeming has successfully established his position as the core and carried on the reform until now.
However, as pointed out in the above-mentioned book:
“Succession to the Core Is the Trickiest Problem
“One thing quite interesting in Chinese politics is that there are no definition, codes or rules whatever about the power of an emperor in the past and the core of the Party now. In fact, even if there are some codes or rules, there is no institution or mechanism to enforce them.
“For the Party, the best way to have a successor to the core is to appoint the successor to the posts of general secretary and, concurrently, the CMC (Central Military Commission) chairman, but as mentioned in Chapter 1, that general secretary and CMC chairman may only be a “daughter-in-law”.
He has to obey the instructions of the core (like Deng), the “mother-in-law”, or to a number of powerful elders, that is, several “mothers-in-law” if there is no core.
“From this, we can see how serious China’s problems are. Even in a developing country such as India, Indonesia or the Philippines, when a person is elected the prime minister or president, he naturally has the power of his office as soon as he has been elected in the parliament or inaugurated.
“In China, however, a Party leader elected by the Party central committee may be powerless and the country may remain dominated by the elders who hold no official posts at all. In order to really have power and be firmly established, the leader has to gradually establish his power base and become the core.
“Even if he is lucky enough to really succeed in establishing his power base, it will take at least several years. Anyway, it is a very difficult process because he should be skilled in applying the art for being an emperor.”
In current China, the core is very old and lacks the vigour to rule while the General Secretary, though to some extent has established his power base, is not powerful enough. As a result, local officials grow stronger. Bo Xilai set his Chongqing model while Wang Yang set his Guangdong model. Both seemed to show that they were more clever than central leaders.
Obviously, local leaders were strong enough to become independent and China might disintegrate. The removal of Bo Xilai from all his posts was a power struggle aimed to ensure not only the rule of law but also to strengthen the central authority’s control of the nation.
This was proved by Renmin Ribao’s three commentaries on Bo Xilai’s downfall. The first one points out the importance to the rule of law but ends by stressing that the whole party should keep consistent with the Party’s central authority in thoughts and closely unite around it, stressing obedience to the central authority.
The second is entirely devoted to stressing such obedience while the third, to stressing discipline and the rule of law.
Obviously strengthening central authority was the first priority then.
Bo Xilai’s arrogance before falling into disgrace proved that in fact, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao were weak then. It was only through the support of powerful elders could they succeed in dealing with Bo Xilai.
However, I pointed in my post Sichuan, the Best Place for a Separate Regime on April 17:
“Sichuan, including Chongqing that was formerly a major part of Sichuan, is the best place for the establishment of a separate regime due to difficult access to it from other Chinese areas. China’s famous poet Li Bai wrote a well-known poem entitled “Going to Sichuan Is More Difficult than Climbing up to the Heaven”.
“Sichuan was a separate independent state five times when China was disintegrated. The longest of them lasted from 221 to 263 AD.
“…if the central authority is not strong enough, with the support of a part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), especially the 14th Group Army and the Chengdu Garrison, it is quite easy for Bo Xilai to establish a separate independent regime in Sichuan. If he has enough support, he may include Yunnan, Tibet and other areas in his state.
“If some other provinces also declare independence and if the PLA generals refuse to fight a civil war, China may disintegrate.
“The Wang Lijun incident occurred on February 6, but the CCP Central did not make things difficult for Bo and waited till the time when Bo Xilai came to Beijing to attend NPC meetings. It has thus successfully placed Bo under house arrest when he was away from his base municipality and avoided the serious trouble of Bo declaring independence in Chongqing and bringing China into chaos.”
China avoided disintegration that time. However due to the difficulty of succession to the core of CCP Empire, if no strongman succeeds Jiang Zemin when Jiang has passed away, so that there will be a weak central autocracy, it is very likely that China will disintegrate into a number of local autocracies just like the Soviet Union.
Therefore, democratic reform is the only way out!
- China: Bo Xilai doomed for his Role in Wang Lijun’s and Gu Kailai’s cases (chinadailymail.com)
- China: Bo Xilai to be expelled from party (chinadailymail.com)
- China’s Revolution Risk (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- What China Learned from the Soviet Union’s Fall (thediplomat.com)