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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/20/12

The Ultimate Chinese Opera

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The rise and fall of Bo Xilai is Shakespeare meets Beijing opera. Scenes would detail how he became the Party's ultimate Great Yellow Hope -- possibly on his way to the very top, at least as one of the nine eminences at the Politburo Standing Committee.

But even for a princeling -- the sons of revolutionary leaders now the lords of new China -- he went overboard. His charisma was too infectious; he was too populist; he exhumed Maoist "red songs"; he displayed no-holds-barred naked ambition; and -- big mistake -- he antagonized the wrong people, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Worse still: Bo and Gu's son Guagua shamelessly -- and trans-continentally -- flaunted his wealth, epitomising everything wrong about big, brass China.  

Still, the inside word in Beijing is that Hu Jintao himself chose not to criminally charge Bo (the Hefei judges, by the way, were all nominated by Hu faithful). In exchange, Hu ended up placing all "his" men at the Politburo, and will probably remain the head of the powerful Central Military Commission for two extra years.

Beijing may have sold the illusion -- to the outside world but especially to 1.3 billion Chinese -- that the whole proceedings were lawful, while preserving the sacrosanct "Party unity." Is it that simple? Of course not.

This Mandarin version of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment also happens to double as the tale of a sacrificial lamb -- with fascinating historic parallels.

In 1976 the female sacrificial lamb was the ferocious Jiang Qing, Mao's widow, and her three accomplices in the Gang of Four, who were blamed for the Cultural Revolution disaster. In 2012 the female sacrificial lamb is Gu and her three accomplices -- Bo Xilai, his sidekick Wang Lijun and bodyguard Zhang Xiaojun (he's the one who may actually have forced Heywood to ingest cyanide). They were blamed by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao himself of trying to drag China back to Maoism.

Gu, at first the Black Spider who shook the Party to its core, now can even be cast -- again, by the Party -- in the role of "martyr" (for the nation, or for the Money Laundering God?). The new official narrative emphasises her "mental problems" and her drama as a caring mother trying to protect her son Guagua from evil foreigner Heywood. At least she won't have to face a firing squad.    

Here's what was filtered. The Politburo Standing Committee -- as in the ultra-refined oligarchy of China's "deciders" -- from now on is made up of only seven members, instead of nine (the Politburo is made up of 25 members).

Everyone knew it but now it's official: Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang will follow Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao as President and Prime Minister until 2022.

All the 25 Politburo names have been decided, even though no one has the full list.  

Bo Xilai will be internally punished alongside a bunch of functionaries and even generals who were about to launch a neo-Maoist coup (at least according to the Party's official version).

Put a Mao in your market

There are rumblings the mandarins in Beidaihe have also discussed the role of the state in China's economy, and how to bridge the inequality gap between the plutocracy and the masses; how to set up a justice system independent from the Party; and how to reign in widespread corruption and abuse of power.

But unlike the predetermined conclusion of the Black Spider's trial, the verdict is open on how the mandarins will bridge the gap between ironclad communist ideology and runaway greed, lofty moral standards and unbridled corruption, revolutionary myth and capitalist reality, and "market socialism" and neoliberalism.

A homicide, a purge, a rash of condemnations, widespread censorship, recycled Confucianism, re-education, repression, ego wars -- the whole thing shrouded in mystery. It simply doesn't add up; it is a remixed Sun Tzu's Art of War sprinkled with trashy Hollywood antics. Beyond the lethal kiss of the Hefei trial and the Beidaihe conclave, the ultimate Chinese opera continues. Up next: The Trials and Tribulations of Maoist turbo-capitalism?

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
 

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