Today’s China Readings June 23, 2012

In Children of Mao’s wrath vie for power in China Reuters looks at the impact of the Cultural Revolution, and the role of Beijing’s Number 4 Middle School, on the development of Bo Xilai and his contemporaries. Last year’s book 暴风雨的记忆 (Memories of the Storm) covered some of these issues. The PRC version, with a preface by Bei Dao, is available on Dangdang for 27 RMB, though according to one reviewer the recently published Hong Kong version is a bit more interesting.

The apparent March confidence about Bo may be misplaced:

After Bo’s dismissal, his wife’s sister told friends not to worry about him, said a retired academic who said she overheard their comments at a funeral in March of a fellow princeling…”Don’t worry about Bo Xilai, he’s been through much worse than this,” the academic said, citing the sister’s words. “He’s been through the Cultural Revolution. This is nothing.”

Japanese newspaper reports that Bo’s wife Gu Kailai has confessed to murdering Neil Heywood and divulged details about overseas assets. I am very skeptical of this report and its sourcing, but multiple western media have picked it up. Meanwhile, Cambodia won’t extradite the Frenchman linked to Chinese political scandal.

Detained tycoon Xu Ming is back in the news. In China’s Bo Xilai Scandal Fells a Tycoon the Wall Street Journal summarizes much of what is known about Dalian Shide’s Xu Ming. The New York Times also had a long piece on Xu Ming in May–Bo Xilai’s Fall in China Put Allies in Peril.

Caixin reveals a new twist in the case, writing in Postal Bank Facing Fallout from Fraud Probe that:

The detentions ordered by party disciplinary officials under China’s “double-regulation” system for party and criminal law enforcement were apparently linked to probes of conglomerate Dalian Shide Group’s fallen chairman Xu Ming and an ex-vice governor at the Agricultural Bank of China named Yang Kun…A source who asked not to be named said the Xu investigation, which began in March, was a catalyst for Yang’s ouster in May as well as the latest probe focusing on PSBC’s top management…More suspects are expected to be named as the investigation into banking fraud continues, a senior financial analyst said.

discussed the Yang Kun case in early June, writing that “Caixin would not waste time on this case unless it were big. As they say here, 北京水深 (Beijing waters run deep.)” These waters look to be deeper, and even more full of sharks, and bodies, than expected.

Too bad I did not know who Xu’s wife (大老婆) was when she was a neighbor in my Beijing apartment compound. The grapevine around here says she fled to the UK in February, but his secondary wives (小老婆) apparently did not get out.

The dispute with the Philippines over Huangyan Island/Scarborough Show may have just been a warmup to the real show. Vietnam’s new maritime law is causing fits in Beijing, as we can see in the China Daily’s China lawmakers slam claim to islands by Hanoi. Unlike the Philippines, Vietnam has a real navy and may believe a skirmish with China now would be beneficial to its long-term strategic position in the region, as the use of force by the PLA would destroy any remaining pretense of the “peaceful rise” theory.

John Hempton has written a follow up to the China kleptocracy post that Sinocism discussed on June 12. Of course corruption is a huge issue here, but I find his thesis a bit simplistic and agree with Jeremy Wallace and his On Chinese Kleptocracy: Stationary versus Roving Bandits.

As I wrote last year when some were predicting that the Arab spring would spread to China:

“The Chinese Communist Party is focused on three basic things. First, staying in power. Second, driving the “Great Chinese Renaissance” and all that entails, from improving standards of living to expanding global influence. Third, getting rich, both personally and as a way of maintaining loyalty to the system, so long as it does not threaten the first and second principles.”

We should expect the pendulum to swing back from the more egregious corruption. Otherwise the Party is doomed, and they know that better than any outside observers.

Hempton cites a recent New York Times article as support for his argument, but in fact that article overstates things. There is still real debate about reform, and one of the examples the correspondent uses appears to be wrong. A speech by Zhang Weiying at the Yabuli China Entrepreneurs Forum earlier this year, which the New York Times says is not available in China, is on Sina here for anyone in China to watch. I assume Zhang made only one speech at the forum…

If you are in China you should now be able to access Sinocism here, though only if you have a Chinese IP address, i.e. not through a VPN or proxy. The link may show an error message if your IP address is outside of China.

The best way to read this blog is to subscribe by email, especially if you are in China, as Sinocism is still mostly blocked by the GFW. The email signup page is here, outside the GFW. You can also follow me on @niubi or Sina Weibo @billbishop. Comments/tips/suggestions/donations are welcome, and feel free to forward/recommend to friends. Thanks for reading.

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The best way to read this blog is to subscribe by email, especially if you are in China, as Sinocism is still mostly blocked by the GFW. The email signup page is here, outside the GFW. You can also follow me on @niubi or Sina Weibo @billbishop. Comments/tips/suggestions/donations are welcome, and feel free to forward/recommend to friends. Thanks for reading.

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