Bo Xilai, Maoist prince of Chongqing, torpedoed
Rome (AsiaNews) - The Communist Party secretary of Chongqing was fired this morning, a day after the conclusion of the National People's Congress (NPC). With a terse message, Xinhua announced that he is being replaced by vice-premier Zhang Dejiang, an ally of President Hu Jintao.
Bo Xilai's departure casts a ray of light in the power struggle that is going on behind the scenes, ahead of the 18th Party Congress, held in October which will mark the transfer of leadership from the Fourth to the Fifth Generation (v .: 09/03/2012 Hu Jintao versus Bo Xilai, "reforms" versus "Maoism". But the people are excluded).
Bo Xilai, 62, telegenic and with an exuberant personality, was a near designated to enter the Politburo Standing Committee, the group of nine people who manage the politics and economics of the Chinese giant. His fortunes have plummeted since February when the deputy mayor of Chongqing, Wang Lijun, sought refuge in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, perhaps to seek asylum.
Wang was chief of police of the large industrial area and was distinguished by a ruthless struggle against the mafia triads and corruption, arresting hundreds even party members.
Wang was promoted to deputy mayor by Bo Xilai, for having implemented some aspects of his policies. Bo had become famous in China for his wanting to return to the Maoist-style: large direct involvement in the economy, fighting corruption, along with egalitarian and populist attempts at a redistribution of wealth.
To implement this program Bo and Wang revived the study of the works of Mao, Mao's songs in the workplace and in schools, and also a liberal use of police and justice, into which there was an investigation ordered by Hu Jintao.
In recent days, Bo had been absent from the NPC for a day, generating rumors about his fall from grace. The fatal blow came yesterday during the press conference of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who pointed to the urgent need for political and economic reforms, without which there is a risk of a return to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution (see: 14/03 / 2012 For Wen Jiabao, economic and political reforms are an "urgent task").
Wen also answered a question about the scandal of Chongqing, saying that ""The current party committee and government of Chongqing must seriously reflect upon and learn lessons from the Wang Lijun incident". The tone of his voice was raised, while wielding a pen and shaking his hand. Wen said that Wang himself is under investigation, but rumours have already dismissed him as a "traitor".
It is likely that Bo Xilai will also be placed under investigation, although for now he has kept his place and his offices at the national level.
Today the Chinese web is full of comments and statements after the fall of Bo. Some see his departure as a victory of China over the last remnants of Maoism, others argue that, despite some mistakes, he worked for the good of the people.
Over the past two years, the "Maoist" current has spread throughout many layers of the Party, to undermine even the State Administration for Religious Affairs: kidnapped bishops, forced ordinations, arrests of priests, sacred buildings demolished (see: 20/12/2011 "Get behind me Satan": No religion for the Chinese Communist Party members"; 24/05/2011 The return of Maoism. Chinese Communist Party self destructs).
Some analysts think that the slowdown of the relations between the Holy See and China is actually a result of these flashes of Maoism, which have restrained Hu Jintao's leadership from proceeding on the path of diplomatic relations and that now, with the setting aside of Maoist group leader Bo Xilai, everything can proceed in a more expeditious manner. We are not so sure. China's policy is rather dull and pragmatic, and so far, neither Bo Xilai, nor Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao have ever questioned the monopoly of the Chinese Communist Party. It is therefore possible that "Maoists" and "reformists" slogans are hiding an internal power struggle.
For now, the rise to power of Dejiang Zhang, Bo's replacement to join the Politburo Standing Committee, is certain, thus increasing the members of the Hu faction, linked to the Communist Youth League tradition.
Bo Xilai is the son of Bo Yibo, one of the "immortals" in the post-Mao era, favourable to economic reforms, but advocate of the slaughter of Tiannamen. The son is therefore a "prince" who has enjoyed the protection and aid of his father in his ascent. His fall is a sign that the family pedigree is no longer a shield. This is a message especially to Xi Jinping, the other great prince who aims to become president and secretary general at the next Party Congress.
But more worrying is the fact that the Chinese population is only bored spectator at the theatre of this great struggle for power.