LIN CHUN | GUARDIAN NEWS SERVICE
WHY is it that when Ai Weiwei is detained, the west assumes that he is a victim of trumped-up charges, but when Bo Xilai is dismissed as the Chongqing party chief, London and Washington follow every step of Beijing? The political upheaval triggered by the downfall of Bo and the “Chongqing model” - is still unfolding in China. Although the model is not fundamentally different from the national agenda of neoliberal global integration, it included more independent social policies. These proved so popular, it took what the Financial Times has called a “palace coup” to crush it.
Corruption charges have been brought against Bo, and his wife Gu Kailai is detained, suspected of murder.
So far nothing is proven, despite a smear campaign against them.
Regardless of whether any hard evidence eventually emerges to prove them guilty, the persecution of the practitioners of the Chongqing model is not motivated by a desire to stop corruption or solve a murder case, but by a sharp political conflict.
Under attack are not only these individuals, but also forces supporting the search for an alternative to the dominant growth pattern and the Chongqing model itself, with all of its hallmarks: changhong, or “singing red songs”; dahei, smashing criminal gangs and corruption; and minsheng, distributive social policies.
So far, the most astonishing thing is that nothing has been established beyond the fact that Neil Heywood, a British businessman who worked for a firm with British Intelligence (M16) links, died in a Chongqing hotel.
According to several versions of an increasingly colourful story, Gu asked Heywood to help her transfer money abroad, the two disputed the commission, and he threatened to expose her.
Remarkably, there was no paper trail.
Many in China believe that none of the increasingly implausible speculations can ever be proven: there is no body; the witnesses are unreliable; in China, a fair trial is not always likely; and in this case the political motives of the accusers have predetermined the outcome of any investigation.
This is not to downplay the seriousness of corruption. Indeed, it is such an entrenched problem that it is used as a political weapon, to bring down one’s enemies or to rally unity: few are clean enough not to fear charges themselves. Often the charge of corruption is only activated politically.
The crackdown has not stopped with Gu and Bo. Party leaders have demanded that cadres take a stand by denouncing Bo while declaring loyalty to President Hu Jintao’s central government.
By mid-April, more than 210,000 online “rumours” had been removed, and many leftist websites shut down.
Thus a crackdown on rumour is used to legitimate political suppression.
The officials vowed that any “violation of the constitution, malicious attack on state leaders or unfounded comments on the 18th party congress” must be crushed. People are reminded of the cultural revolution purges.
In the campaign against Chongqing, the degree of oppression directly reflects the extent of resistance.
Instead of redressing policy mistakes in the last decade, China’s leaders are determined to suppress dissent while paving the way for their next big move: further privatisation and financial liberalisation, alongside “political reform”, which will institutionalise the spectacular personal economic gains privatisation has allowed. The current crisis may be the last milestone in the Chinese path of negating socialism. What is extraordinary about it is the alliance of a Communist leadership, anti- Communist factions and western governments - a phenomenal example of 21st-century postmodern politics.