Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The New York Times has a whopping four stories from China in today’s issue — quite a feat — and something that really shows the paper believes the Bo Xilai scandal (not to mention the Chen Guangcheng scandal) is a fundamentally huge issue in the country.Two of particular note of are from Edward Wong on the city of Chongqing, Bo Xilai’s base until his removal from power.
One story deals with whether Bo — a neo-Maoist who gained much popularity for his crackdown on corruption in the city — may have been using his power to harass (and maybe even torture) his enemies:
Mr. Bo’s campaign, called “strike black” or “smash the black,” was rolled out in June 2009 to great fanfare and engineered by Wang Lijun, a police officer from northeast China whom Mr. Bo had installed as the police chief here after he became party secretary in late 2007. Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang said the campaign was aimed at destroying crime gangs and their supporters in Chongqing, but critics and some people convicted during that time say the campaign was at least partly a cover to tear down Mr. Bo’s enemies and undermine private entrepreneurs.
We’d also heard similar reports from that Bo was involved in the torture and perhaps murder of his enemies. From the sounds of Wong’s reporting, it looks like these possibility is being seriously investigated by Chinese authorities.
Perhaps even more important is Wong’s second story, which looks at what Bo’s Chongqing says about China as a whole. Bo’s drive for power (and his growing ability to undermine Beijing) was at least partially dependent on Chongqing’s city government pursuing growth through ambitious investment projects:
Flush with infrastructure projects, Chongqing, with a population of 31 million, had an economic growth rate of 16.4 per cent last year, the highest of any municipality. But the municipal government and local state-owned companies have accumulated $160 billion in debt, according to an estimate by Victor Shih, who studies China’s political economy. Many of those loans might never be repaid.
Policy makers pushing for a different model across China, one that relies more on consumer spending and encourages private enterprise, insist that long-stalled structural overhauls must be restarted. Some see an opening in the coming leadership transition. But the biggest hurdle may be the fact that both departing and incoming leaders have close ties to state-owned enterprises, which are keen to preserve the status quo.
Chongqing was once thought a model for economic growth, but now even state media such as the People’s Daily is saying that growth is “unsustainable”.
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