Bo, Mao and a China that stands still

Alia | September 29th, 2012 - 6:13 am

“He had or maintained improper sexual relationships with a number of women. He is good at calligraphy. His closest ally and assistant defected to a foreign country. His wife was sentenced to suspended death. His son was once aboard. He set off a storm of Red culture. He fought against the evils….”

Who is he? Looking at the description above, anyone who’s been following China news would think it’s about Bo Xilai, who built a Red Chongqing, whose police chief and best assistant Wang Lijun’s failed defection to the U.S. served as the tipping point of all the political scandals of the Bo family, whose wife has recently been sentenced to suspended death for the murder of a British businessman, and whose son just graduated from Harvard this summer.

But for someone who is familiar enough with contemporary Chinese history or a Chinese native like the original poster of the above description 法号野合, “He who lives in our hearts forever, is the great leader Chairman Mao.”

Yes, Indeed. Mao had have several wives, the last one of which, Jiang Qing, was sentenced to suspended death for leading the Culture Revolution, Lin Biao, Mao’s close ally and designated successor, was found dead in his plane crashed on route to defection to the Soviet Union. Mao’s son was once in North Korea fighting the Americans and died there.

There aren’t new things under the sun? Sure there isn’t in China, especially politically. As a self-claimed loyal fan of Mao, Bo definitely has followed Mao’s track, only this time, not to a picture hanging on Tianmen Square, but to a cell in prison.

The description doesn’t only reveal the curious overlap of Bo and Mao’s lives, but also the sad reality of China’s society after over 30 years of opening up and reform.

Bo didn’t get where he was today from nowhere, China’s political, economic and social realities allowed him and his family to go this far. The sadder fact is that the Chinese people, yes, the people, allowed him and his family to go this far.

Bo has been very popular among many of the local people in Dalian and Chongqing, the two cities that have been governed by him. Actually, his fan base extends far beyond Dalian and Chongqing – they are all across China. Even today, after news about his wife being sentenced for murder and him being expelled from the CCP, there are still people who voice sympathy and support for him. 开心2963810503 commented: “Whatever they [the government] say, in the eyes of the Chinese people, Bo is a good guy.” 艺老笑熬浆糊 commented: “Winner rules, losers being ruled. When he [Bo] was still in power, the media cannot say enough good words about him. Now, all condemnation. And us, the people, have to agree with whatever.” 最后的loli went directly after the CCP: “It is so easy for the Party to get rid of someone who didn’t listen. For all the accusations they put on Bo, change a name and they work for pretty much every high-ranking official.” 日坠深秋 agreed: “He was a criminal. Who isn’t in the Party?” 迷茫求索 sighed: “What’s wrong with this society. Bo, who brought real benefits to the ordinary people, ended up like this. And those traitors are still in ruling positions.” 魔都小夭 asked: “So everything he has achieved in Dalian and Chongqing didn’t count?” miniArhat asked: “I’m not sure whether he was clean, but why there isn’t any open and fair trials of him? It is all behind the door deals. Why would someone expect the people to be convinced?”

The popularity of Bo among ordinary people didn’t come out of nowhere, either. China has been an feudal society for over 2000 years. The belief that a better living depends on a smart and capable man at the top is so deeply-rooted in China’s society. And for the lack of real democracy and rule of law, that belief never goes away. This is especially true now when social inequalities are on the rise and there is no good way to seek justice through formal channels, people know nothing but to resort to a “青天大老爷 (qing tian da lao ye)” (how people call a good official in ancient times) for hope for change.

Bo’s story ends (well, not really), but if China doesn’t reform politically, there will be more Bo Xilai emerging, just like how Bo emerged after Mao’s death 46 years ago. When people are getting more and more discontent with the lives they have and see no hope ahead, they can easily swing to the extremes. Were the recent violent anti-Japan protests a coincidence? Surely, nationalism played a role. But if they were protests against the Chinese government, there would also be violence. In fact, there were just in August in XXX where anti-government protesters smashed local government building. Hardly any protest in China now can go without some sort of violence – people simply need a way to vent out their disappointment, desperation and anger.

In such a time, how would someone like Bo, who promoted equality for everyone and vowed to fight corruption and XX in public, not be popular among ordinary people? Netizen 细胳膊细腿PK胖子 commented: “If an official [Bo] who have at least done some good for the people are so corrupt, what about the others? If let me choose, I’d rather have a corrupt but capable official than a corrupt official who does nothing for the people.” Without a reliable and fair system, and as long as China is ruled by individuals instead of law, the ordinary people would support whoever is less evil or can bring some real-life benefits to them.

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2 Responses to “Bo, Mao and a China that stands still”

  1. [...] netizens’ reactions also won’t be so drastic if the news of Bo Xilai’s expulsion from the Party hasn’t been released just a few days ago – Bo is famous for promoting Red [...]

  2. Someone thinks this story is hao-tastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

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