Frustrated, well-known American journalist Nicholas Kristof said, “China-watchers have a deplorable record and China’s history is one of unpredictable twists and turns.”
Much earlier, a well-known Chinese poet Zhang Yuangan (1091-1170) displayed similar frustration in his famous line “Heaven is always too high to ask about its intention.” Here by the word “heaven”, Zhang meant the emperor.
In an absolute autocracy, the final decision is made by the emperor or the core of the party’s collective leadership. According to Deng Xiaoping, the core has the final say.
However, according to the Chinese art for being an emperor, the basic skill for a sovereign to maintain his dominance is to keep what is in his mind secret, so that he may create and maintain the awe among all the officials under him. In other words, he must be the tiger in the mountains. Otherwise, the situation will be what is described in the following well-known Chinese saying: “When there is no tiger in the mountains, monkeys are the kings.”
In other words, there will be rampant official despotism everywhere if the sovereign does not rule over them like a tiger.
Under such circumstances of complete secrecy, it is impossible for Chinese and foreign media to provide sensational news about the results of the coming 18th congress.
However, our clever journalists have their ways. They are able to find informed sources and obtain secret information from them. For example, SCMP has “sources close to inner workings”.
SCMP says in its report titled Conservatives dominate latest line-up for new Communist Party leadership, “Conservatives appear poised to dominate the Communist Party’s new leadership as furious horse trading continues ahead of next week’s transfer of power in Beijing.
“The latest consensus among outgoing leaders, their immediate successors and influential party elders is that the party’s innermost circle may still be subject to last-minute changes ahead of the 18th congress starting on Thursday, according to sources close to the inner workings of the once-a-decade generational transition.”
I am really impressed that SCMP has “sources close to the inner workings”. If that is true and inner workings are allowed to be made open to a Hong Kong newspaper, it will be a major breakthrough for greater transparency.
SCMP says, “However, the sources said that the Politburo Standing Committee‘s likeliest line-up was now packed with conservatives including vice-premier and Chongqing party chief Zhang Dejiang, 65, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, 65, Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng, 67, and Tianjin party chief Zhang Gaoli, 65.
“They said the biggest surprise was the omission of two reform-minded protégés of party general secretary Hu Jintao – party organisation department head Li Yuanchao, who turns 62 this month, and Guangdong party chief Wang Yang, 57 – mainly due to their relative youth and opposition from conservative party elders, including former premier Li Peng.”
Biggest surprise? That makes me doubt that the sources really have access to the inner workings. Otherwise, they must be very clear of the fact that Jiang Zemin remains the core while Hu Jintao is but the general secretary working under Jiang.
SCMP further says, “Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, 64, long tipped to become China’s next economic tsar as executive vice-premier, will also be elevated to the Politburo Standing Committee, which will be downsized from the current nine members to just seven, but will be given the lesser job of party discipline chief.”
“The supposedly conservative make-up of the new leadership has dashed hopes that the party might have been prepared to push for bold political reforms after learning a bitter lesson from the downfall of former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, for a long time a contender for a top leadership post and an advocate of an ultra-leftist approach.
“Sources confirmed that due to rifts within the leadership, a consensus reached at the secretive summer conclave of current and retired party leaders at the Hebei beach resort of Beidaihe had to be scrapped following the latest changes to the Politburo Standing Committee line-up.”
SCMP then cited quite a few analysts’ opinions. They all seem surprised by the new lineup that indicates Hu’s lack of dominance.
Both SCMP and the analysts cited by it regard Jiang and his Shanghai faction as conservatives. Is Jiang really a conservative against democratic political reform. I do not know. “Heaven is always too high to ask about its intention”.
Before Jiang had established his power base, he appeared to be 100% a conservative.
Robert Lawrence Kuhn mentioned Jiang’s words against private entrepreneurs in his biography of Jiang Zemin entitled The Man Who Changed China:
“If we don’t stop these business owners,” Jiang warned in an internal meeting around 1990, “they will put an end to socialism.”
However, when Jiang had established his position as the core, he put forth his Three Represents to justify the pursuit of capitalism and even advocated recruiting entrepreneurs into the Party.
Jiang’s economic reform is much more profound than Zhao Ziyang’s, still his image as a conservative remains.
When Jiang was the general secretary, he made great efforts to establish the rule of law. After his retirement, his protégé Hu Bangguo, the rank two leader has carried on the work. The power struggle against Bo Xilai began with Wu’s efforts to implement the rule of law against Bo’s disrespect of the rule of law, in Bo’s campaign against organised crime.
The National People’s Congress under Wu’s control amended China’s criminal procedure law for better implementation of the rule of law weeks before the beginning of the Bo Xilai saga.
Jiang and his faction’s priority in political reform is the rule of law. It does not mean that he is against democracy. In fact he is building the foundation for democracy as the rule of law is indispensable for democracy.
There should first of all be the rule of law and human rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press. There should be no persecution of dissidents and no abuse of law. Democracy should be developed while efforts are being made to establish the rule of law and human rights.
However, will there be such progress? I do not know. “Heaven is always too high to ask about its intention.” That is the sad reality in China.Read the full SCMP report
- From lawyer to leader, Li Keqiang will be China’s best-educated leader yet (chinadailymail.com)
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- Mao Thought conspicuously missing from Xinhua report in China; is it dumped? (chinadailymail.com)
- Grabs for Power Behind Plan to Shrink Elite Circle (nytimes.com)