Friday, February 24, 2012

The Succession War is not over

While leaving the United States after a five-day tour, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping stated that his visit was a ‘full success’. After completing official calls on the US President and other dignitaries, the visit ended in a relaxed way in Hollywood. Further, Xi termed his meetings with President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden as ‘fruitful’.
Before the visit, Jeremy Page in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had correctly analyzed the future Chinese President’s personality. He spoke of his “unusual ability to get along, and to work with people across regional, ideological and functional divides—a personality trait that friends say dates back to his formative years in the village.”
A family friend of Xi told Page: “He's a very balanced character. He's not the kind to take revenge on anyone—he sees the big picture, and the importance of working with all kinds of people.”
Sidney Rittenberg, an American ex-Communist who knew Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun, an associate of Deng Xiaoping, explained to the WSJ: “I can't help but think that some of his father's personality rubbed off on him. There's one trait common to both father and son: they never made life hard for their opponents.”
Only the future will tell us if this is true for Xi Jr., though in the case of Xi Sr., he rubbed Mao up the wrong side by being too close to Marshal Peng Dehuai, who dared criticize the Chairman after the Great Leap Forward. Xi Zhongxun was purged for 16 years for his ‘crime’.
Except for the demonstrations by Tibetan supporters protesting in different us cities against the repression in Eastern Tibet (more than 20 monks and nuns have immolated themselves), the visit went rather well, at least as far as the forthcoming succession to the top of the Communist Party is concerned.
Xi had earlier travelled to Iowa with a business delegation and agreed to buy more than US $ 4 billion of soybeans from the US; watching a NBA basketball match between the LA Lakers and the Phoenix Suns at the Staples Center in LA, further endeared him to the American public.
The situation is less euphoric in China where the succession war rages.
While the powerful Chongqing’s Party Secretary, Bo Xilai is trying hard to make it to the ultimate Paradise for a Chinese politician, the Politburo’s Standing Committee, the Wind seems to have recently changed direction.
The New York Times reported: “Here in Chongqing, the Communist Party’s secretive, stage-managed process of installing a new generation of leaders has become a more open and sometimes brutal contest, with fortunes of leaders of broadly different inclinations at stake.”
The newspaper which quotes Wang Kang, a local writer and commentator: “What’s going on in Chongqing is a battle over the future course of China. It is about how China should be run”, comments: “unlike Mr. Xi, seen as humble and deft, Mr. Bo is a tenacious fighter and showman.”
Unfortunately for Bo, his right hand man, Wang Lijun, the Police Chief of the port city had to be demoted (or did he try to defect?).
The foreign press extensively covered the incident, but it is still not very clear what happened. Everyone agrees that Wang Lijun visited the US Consulate General in Chengdu (Sichuan province) and after an over-night stay, Wang is said to have left ‘of his own volition’ (says the US spokesperson).
Had Bo conspired to spoil Xi Jinping's leadership succession prospects?
Was Wang refused political asylum to avoid derailing Xi’s visit to the US?
Did Locke consult the Chinese authorities in Beijing before taking a decision?
There are different answers to these questions.
Voice of America quoted an article of the Washington Free Beacon saying that Wang told the US Consul General in Chengdu that Bo was corrupt and maintained close ties with crime syndicates. Wang could also have disclosed tactics and strategies adopted by China's public security agencies to crack down on political dissidents.
Has Wang given any information on the power struggle in China a few months before the leadership change?
Some speculate that hardliners like Bo and Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee, conspired to prevent Vice President Xi Jinping from taking over the presidency later this year.
The Chongqing municipal government issued a statement saying that Wang was on ‘vacation therapy’, being over-stressed. Nice formula!
The US-based author Xujun Eberlein has another theory, using ‘informed speculation’, she wrote that Wang Lijun was not seeking asylum in Chengdu, he simply wanted the Central Party’s protection. Wang would have used the US consulate as a safe house, where he waited until officers sent from Beijing could arrive. He then walked outside the US consulate, where seventy police vans sent by Bo Xilai had come to arrest him, but the State Security agents managed to take him away to Beijing after a short scuffle.
Whatever the truth is, this incident shows that everything is not smooth in the Middle Kingdom.
Another news piece is rather worrying and related to the October succession; hardliners are trying to impose their ‘leftist’ policies once again.
An article written by Zhu Weiqun, the Deputy Director of CCP's United Front Work Department in The Study Times (Xuexi Shibao), unnoticed by the Indian press may have serious implications.
Zhu, who is the interlocutor of the Dalai Lama's Envoys in the so-called Beijing-Dharamsala negotiations, argues that China must change some aspects of its present political and educational system in order to achieve 'national cohesion'. He expects a discussion on this issue to take place at the forthcoming annual National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in March.
Zhu raises the possibility of abolishing special privileges and preferential policies offered to minority nationalities, taking the nationality name off all IDs cards and passports and removing nationality names from provinces.
Does it mean that autonomy will be deleted from the Constitution in the name of promoting a 'greater cohesion'?
This would be a radically new policy. In 2005, China's State Council had published a White Paper on Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China which stated: "The People's Republic of China is a united multi-ethnic state founded jointly by the people of all its ethnic groups. So far, there are 56 ethnic groups identified and confirmed by the Central Government."
Zhu’s and his mentors’ move should seriously worry the Tibetans. In 2008, the Dalai Lama's Envoys had given a Memorandum to Mr Zhu; and a year later, they presented a Note on the Memorandum. The Tibetan Envoys offered amongst other things, to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the PRC and of its Constitution, as well as the Dalai Lama’s ‘full cooperation for a mutually beneficial solution’.
Zhu Weiqun rejected the Memorandum and the Note.
The latest essay of Zhu will have serious consequences for the Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols and other minority nationalities as they may lose their identity guaranteed by the Constitution of China.
Zhu and his bosses in the Standing Committee of the Politburo probably believe that it is a way to solve the Tibetan issue once and for all.
But this could also create more resentment amongst the people of non-Han origin and increase the circle of violence.
For India, it will also have serious implications for the border talks as Delhi has always acknowledged Tibetan autonomy (within the People's Republic of China, since 1954).
This should be followed closely; but one thing is sure, the succession war is not over.

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