Monday, April 16, 2012

Neil #Heywood : The #Chongquing Conspiracy

I have C/P this article in it's entirety,( and hope the author does not object) one never knows with China and their drachonian censorship, it may well just disappear. AND it is an excellent piece of work.

A true crime drama of murder and politics in the Middle Kingdom
by Alex Kravitz, Opinion Editor

The Chinese Lord & Lady Macbeth, Bo Xilai (right) and Gu Kailai (left), accused of conspiring to murder and then cover-up the murder of British consultant Neil Heywood
It’s fairly obvious what the story is.

A Chinese Lord & Lady Macbeth conspire to enhance their wealth and power, murder a British expatriate serving as the couple’s “bai shoutao” (literally “white glove”) to prevent him from holding anything over them once they emerge from the once-in-a-decade power shuffle, and are betrayed to the U.S. consulate by their former police chief and right-hand man, who is wracked by a guilty conscience and fears he is next on their hit list.

Not so obvious are the details — and even the validity — of the story.

I firmly believe in due process, and cannot condemn Bo Xilai — Chongqing Communist Party Committee Secretary — and his wife Gu Kailai — high-powered attorney with Beijing Ang-dao Law, formerly Kailai Law — of any crimes before the prosecution has proved their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. 

Rather than report in AP style — as you can find anywhere on the web — I will fashion together the facts as we know them to explain how and why the story of the Chinese Macbeths will continue to snowball and eventually be included in many “Top Ten News Stories of 2012” lists this December.

Different news outlets will begin in different places.

John Garnaut of Foreign Policy prophetically begins not with Bo Xilai’s crackdown on gangs in Chongqing in 2009, but rather, at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.

By my own account — and I in no way suggest that the pro-democracy activists were wrong to act when they did, for the cause of democracy is always right — the Tiananmen Square protests were the inverse of the old aphorism, “a day late and a dollar short”; they were a day early and a dollar too much. More precisely, they were a year early and a billion dollars too much. Had the protests occurred one year later, the prospect of opening up a potentially billion-dollar market might have had more cachet due to Gorbachev leading the Soviet Union to unprecedented reforms that would signal to Chinese leaders they were in danger of becoming the world’s last Communist hub.

The Tiananmen Square protests began unofficially on 15 April 1989, the day former Communist Party General Secretary and beloved reformer Hu Yaobang — ousted from his position two years previously — died at age 74 while attempting to recover from a heart attack seven days prior. Stricken with grief and the injustice of the Party allowing Hu Yaobang — who had, for seven days, been on his deathbed — to die without seeing his official record expunged, Beijing university students and professors held vigils around Tiananmen Square’s Monument to the People’s Heroes. Students at Peking University and Tsinghua University separately made shrines to Hu Yaobang on their campuses before learning of the gathering in Tiananmen. On 17 April, ~3,000 Peking and ~1,000 Tsinghua students marched to Tiananmen for a vigil that became an occupation rally, from which the students generated the Seven Demands:
  1. Affirm as correct Hu Yaobang’s views on democracy and freedom;
  2. Admit that the campaigns against spiritual pollution and bourgeois liberalization had been wrong;
  3. Publish information on the income of state leaders and their family members;
  4. End the ban on privately-run newspapers and stop press censorship;
  5. Increase funding for education and raise intellectuals’ pay;
  6. End restrictions on demonstrations in Beijing;
  7. Provide objective coverage of students in official media.
The death of Hu Yaobang recalls a similar situation, wildly romanticized in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. The natural death of the leftist General Jean Maximilien Lamarque on 1 June 1832 provided a sympathetic battle cry for the 5-7 June Paris Uprising that the leftists lamenting the economic and authoritarian policies of the post-Napolean regime wanted to have anyway. They accused the French elitists of hating Lamarque because he opposed monarchy, and of that hatred ultimately leading to his marginalized career and death, though, at age 61, Lamarque had far surpassed life expectations of the era (and it’s difficult to believe his unpopularity among the elite led to his marginalization considering he had remained loyal to Napoleon during the Hundred Days, a career decision that looked good for about, well, a hundred days).

Unlike the Lamarque opportunists, however, the Tiananmen protesters had legitimate cause for complaint that Hu Yaobang had died so unspectacularly after having once given them hope for change by responding to a question about which of Mao’s theories would help modern China’s economy with the succinct, “I think, none.” Moreover, the student gatherings provided an unprecedented exchange of ideas amongst Beijing’s budding intellectuals, and Hu Yaobang soon came to symbolize not what he did in his lifetime (promote the continued reign of the Communist Party), but rather, the voice of the outsider longing only to do good, the stranger who is cannibalized once let in to the Party. Party leaders felt the public’s hostility toward them in the wake of Hu Yaobang’s death, and they immediately released glowing obituaries in state-controlled media announcing a full state memorial in the Great Hall of People, the building that houses the National People’s Congress.

On 22 April, just one week after Hu Yaobang’s death, 100,000 students defied Party orders to vacate Tiananmen for the state funeral, and Party leaders had no choice but to broadcast the state funeral and get it over with as swiftly as possible. Students were not happy with the highly perfunctory 40-minute performance from Party leaders, and demanded to speak with them. The rest is history.

And speaking of history, one year after Tiananmen began, Gorbachev was rapidly losing control of the Soviet Union after being elected its first President on 15 March 1990.

Nationalistic influences exploded in all Soviet satellites, with the most damning coming from Poland in the wake of the USSR revealing in April that state secret police had, in fact, carried out the Katyn massacre of 22,000 Polish Army officers, a crime against humanity Stalin had long attributed to the Nazis despite the Nazis being the ones to report the discovery in 1943 of mass graves to the Polish government-in-exile in London.

At the 28th Party Congress in early July, Gorbachev was reelected General Secretary, but Boris Yeltsin’s faction resigned in protest of the reforms not going far enough (they wanted to develop a parliamentary system), the makeup of the Politburo changed 100% (save for Gorbachev), the role of General Secretary was officially divested from a position of governance (though Gorbachev happened to hold the title of President of the Soviet Union, it was now no longer because he was General Secretary) and Gorbachev proposed the New Union Treaty for the Union of Sovereign States to replace the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Imagine if Tiananmen had taken place precisely one year later than it did: It would have fallen exactly between Gorbachev become the first All-Union President and the Yeltsin-Gorbachev split crystallizing itself at the 28th Party Congress. It also would have occurred half a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall and a month after the only East German open parliamentary election in history. We can speculate about whether any of these events would have occurred had Tiananmen not partially inspired them, but I am confident that all of them would.

The relationship between Tiananmen and the Berlin Wall is that of Lamarque to the Paris Uprising of 1832 — purely sloganistic; had Lamarque lived, the Parisians would just as easily have found another rallying call, and besides, the analogy is flawed in that Tiananmen was a smaller rally call for East Germans than Lamarque was for Parisians.

Had Hu Yaobang lived precisely one year longer than he did, the entire history of the world might have been different. But as it happened, China got the mass protests first, and Party leaders cracked down brutally.

Little known to Westerners was the immense sense of pathos that shook the Party leaders and accompanied the fear upon which critics correctly identified the Party was acting. This sense of pathos led to an unspoken — or publicly unspoken, at least — “Tiananmen consensus” among Party officials: No one outside of upper-level policy circles in major Chinese cities could ever again be afforded the opportunity to engage in counterrevolutionary criticism of the People’s Republic of China by highlighting the disagreements and infighting of the Communist Party’s factions and personalities. The result was a re-enchantment of China, one that proved effective for the Party in the face of Communist downfalls the world over in the coming years. It’s the greatest achievement of Chinese leadership that, for 2233 years, since Qin Shihuang united China and declared himself Emperor, the people living in China have gladly called themselves “Chinese” over what used to be their ethnic identities (China has 56 recognized ethnic groups, yet somehow, 92% of the 1.3 billion-strong population perceive themselves to be “Han” ethnicity) and have always emerged from times of conflict and splintering with a renewed sense of the “oneness” of China, a region over 9.6 million square kilometers. 1989 was no exception. I’m not sure if it would have been had the events occurred one year later, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is that a lot of people bottled up a lot of emotions, notably the sense of betrayal.

Two factions emerged, and, over the course of twenty years, pluralized power between them to pursue mutual interests in China’s favor.

In a fascinating piece for The Washington Quarterly this past winter (one that is — of course — already dated, now that Bo Xilai is out of Chinese politics for good), Cheng Li introduces us to the recent Chinese concept of “one party, two coaltions”, which he termed the “new Chinese bipartisanship” in 2005.

The factions are the elitists and the populists, or, to use the terms the Chinese use, the princelings — so called because their fathers all held important roles in the early Revolution — and the tuanpai, which literally means “league faction”, so derived from the predominance of its members’ political careers beginning in the Chinese Communist Youth League. I will split the difference for the sake of alliteration and refer to them as the princelings and the populists.

The princelings all had powerful fathers or fathers-in-law in the government or military of the PRC and were thus born and bred for political games — the proverbial “Senators’ sons”. 

Their first posts were often strong résumé-builders in the limelight in wealthy, world-integrated coastal cites with little true administrative leadership required to appear proficient and instances of corruption easily ascribable to a host of under-administrators, not the man in charge. They represent China’s entrepreneurs and burgeoning tycoons. Theirs is a feudal system of patronage, though some among them reject certain aspects of their inherited lordships and profess to believe in true ethics reform.

The populists, on the other hand, had to work to earn the respect of the Party. Their parents were not well connected, though not particularly unconnected, either. They may have studied at major universities like Peking and they may have been raised in major urban environments, but many of them received early posts in rural areas where corruption was high and the probability of advancing low. For men from their starting gates to end up in the high stakes race to the Politburo Standing Committee — the nine members of the 25-member Politburo who meet regularly to decide matters of the Party — they had to be incredibly good administrators and innovators. More than that, they continue to prove their validity as leaders by appealing to the people must vulnerable in society: farmers, migrant workers and the urban poor.

As Cheng Li tells us, right now, there’s a carefully engineered balance between the two factions. Each has skills the other lacks. The populists sport President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, and Executive Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who is widely expected to take over as premier. The princelings include two “retired” actors (in Tiananmen consensus politics — where leadership changes are scheduled to happen on time every ten years rather than as cults of personality wax and wane — men retire upon reaching the age of 65, but the former leaders remain kingmakers in the Party) — former President Jiang Zemin and former Vice President Zeng Qinghong — as well as three maturing fifth generation leaders — Vice President Xi Jinping (who is widely expected to take over as president), Vice Premier Wang Qishan, and, until the Chongqing conspiracy, a presumptive appointee to the Standing Committee, the charismatic, uncharacteristically (for a Chinese Communist Party official) self-promoting Bo Xilai, Committee Secretary for the southwestern PRC directly-administered megacity Chongqing, created from four cities in 1997 to separate it from Sichuan’s Chengdu to its west.

That balance has now been shattered, permanently.

Two powerful factors explain it: Firstly, it’s unlikely that a rule of princelings could last longer than this current leadership cycle due to simple demographics — by 2022, there won’t be another Bo Xilai-type son of an early revolutionary hero, so the popularity and clout of the current princelings is all the princelings have going for them; Secondly, Gu Kailai has been arrested for murdering a Briton, hardly a trumped up charge, and — due to the international aspect — not consignable to a kangaroo court.

China has traditionally been cruel to the wives of its former leaders, but in this case, it’s hard to imagine the stolid Politburo resorting to tabloid warfare to prevent a rising star from rising higher.

The murder charge must have credible evidence.

Gu Kailai is not being punished for her husband’s crimes — she is being questioned as a suspect with a strong motive in a clearly premeditated, covered-up murder case!

To the soul of Neil Heywood, the British man narrating this film noir of betrayal from beyond the grave, I send my condolences and hope that at least your untimely murder will serve as a paradigm shift toward real reform in the next set of leaders.

Premier Wen Jiabao has been fighting Bo Xilai in private for twenty years, and with this heartbreaking story, Wen has sung his swan song, publicly lecturing the Party that men like Bo — an egotistical princeling with a dash of malformed, xenophobic, anti-intellectual populism — could lead to a repeat of the “historical tragedies” of the Cultural Revolution. It’s his single biggest contribution to the history of the world.
Wen was there, in the line of fire, in 1989. As Communist Party chief of staff, he literally stood behind General Secretary Zhao Ziyang as the man begged crowds of protestors to vacate Tiananmen so that the hardliners would not succeed in quashing them with force.

The hardliners banished Zhao for his “soft” stance on Tiananmen, and every Party official showing a hint of remorse (publicly, at least) was purged from the Party in the following months. Yet Wen — who had taken no political stances and was in attendance purely as Zhao’s bureaucratic chief of staff — survived. And thrived! For years, China experts have not known why exactly Wen survived politically despite the damning photo of him standing by his boss. The answer seemed for many years to be that Wen was good at his job and put Party loyalty above all else, so he had done his duty to Zhao even if he didn’t think it wise. It’s now apparent that the converse is true; while Zhao’s memoirs prove Wen provided political advice against certain shows of sympathy, we can now infer that these advisements were for the ultimate good of advancing a reformist agenda, one that Wen knew would be set back if Zhao lost his political capital trying to calm righteously angry students. Wen spent the rest of his political life not as a hardliner, but as a secret reformer, though the secret was only well-kept with regard to Westerners; the Chongqing conspiracy has opened a door into China that confirms the decades-long presence of reformers within the Politburo, reformers whose influence slowly gained as the early generations died off.

Bo Xilai was the antithesis to Wen Jiabao.

A princeling who was given cushy jobs (even Chongqing — which he is credited with revolutionizing thanks to his crackdown on gangs — was awarded to him shortly before the completion of the Three Gorges Dam, which allowed ocean-going ships to travel 1500 miles inland and deliver directly to Chongqing; in other words, much of the economic development was merely harvesting the plans of some anonymous technocrats and taking all the political capital), he married a woman as equally ambitious and conniving as he was, and they ran a kickback scheme forcing everyone contracting to do business in Chongqing to hire Gu Kailai’s firm to do the paperwork. As he instructed his police chief to torture — if “necessary” — suspected gang members to break the gangs, his wife found a bai shoutao — a white glove — to prevent their fingerprints from landing on any of the kickbacks and God knows what else they had going.

Bo suddenly decided to start singing Communist songs in public, organizing grand showy events of agitprop. He’s very much a John Edwards type of politician — he has the hair, the looks and the charisma, but at heart he aspires to more of the same, the only difference being more power for him, personally.

Then in November, Gu Kailai becomes paranoid that — just one year from her husband’s likely ascension to the Politburo Standing Committee — Neil Heywood has failed to mention his excitement at continuing their kickback scheme in Beijing.

She learns that someone sent certain documents away for safe keeping as an “insurance policy” against a murder attempt.

She quickly figures out it’s Heywood and demands to see him.

He conveys to friends that he is scared for his life.

He is found dead of “alcohol poisoning” in a hotel room the next day.

He is cremated immediately sans autopsy.

No one says anything.

Jake, it’s Chinatown.

Except it’s not gonna play like that.

Not this time.

Not with an Anglo expat involved.

Not with an expat who speaks fluent Mandarin and has children with a Chinese wife.

Not with a “dragon lady” as the prime suspect.

And especially not with an expat who… doesn’t drink?

Apparently, Heywood was not much of a drinker.

Maybe Gu Kailai didn’t know this about him and assumed a paranoid man drinking himself to death would be the official story.

So we have a victim cremated before any thought of an autopsy even though the cause of death was a substance about which he’s known to be very cautious.

As British authorities talk to Beijing, Wang Lijun becomes increasingly jumpy.

He notices Gu Kailai has seemed very macabre, and Bo Xilai is being less and less direct and clear.

He panics and goes to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, where he most likely pleads for a bargain but gets offered nothing.

Nonetheless, he most likely reveals the most dramatic revelation: Heywood’s death may have been a cover-up in which he is implicit and in which both Gu and Bo are implied.

Wang is detained indefinitely upon leaving the consulate.

While the back story is incredible, it’s ultimately the Lady Macbeth aspect that’s going to really sell some newspapers.

Another Shakespearean play — King Lear — was incredibly right: “Proper deformity shows not in the fiend / So horrid as in woman”.

That is to say, when evil appears in men, then Jake, it’s Chinatown.

People care remarkably little.

Hundreds of young men of color kill one another every year, and their communities passively tolerate it, or strive to change it but resign to accept that it’s a losing battle.

On the other hand, imagine it were girls as young as thirteen pistol-whipping punks who haven’t paid a drug debt to them.

Conditions would change very quickly.

It’s horribly sexist, but at the same time, at least some good always comes out of a media firestorm around a woman murderer because people recognize the wrongness of murder more easily if a woman does it. 

As a man, I personally feel ashamed that when men perform acts of immense cruelty and violence, the victim is the only story, and then when women perform these acts, the women are the focus.

No matter what, the media wants to portray women as somehow “worse” than men, turning stories about domestic violence into “Why didn’t that weak woman leave him?” and stories like this one into the actual meditations on violence we should be reading in every edition of the paper for every act of violence perpetrated by a man.

In summation, reformist princeling Xi Jinping (who likes text-messaging en masse low-level Party workers to inspire them) is set to become president, and he will very likely be the only princeling to serve as president or premier.

The next leadership cycle ten years from now will no doubt reward the sixth, seventh and eighth generations, getting on too far removed from early heroes for the legacy to be potent.

Grand-nephew of Comrade So-and-so of the 5th Brigade becomes increasingly irrelevant as concerns of competing in the global economy, providing housing for the population and combating global warming become the primary concerns of Chinese leadership.

Bo Xilai’s rise and fall is a true dramatic tragedy, with hamartia, murder, and stakes high enough to affect the long-term future of China.