Yesterday’s New York Times bombshell on the wealth of outgoing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s family has prompted widespread censorship in China.It comes at the worst possible time for Wen, who will be weakened going into a leadership transition that happens just once every 10 years.
Wen is expected to push for reform at the 18th Party Congress. And while its widely expected that Xi Jinping will be the next President, many other spots are still up for grabs.
Chinese online media-watching blog Tea Leaf Nation reports that many Chinese internet users are suspicious about the New York Times story, with some wondering if it has been used as a “puppet” by conservative, anti-reform forces:
China’s armchair political analysts on social media see far more in the article than a simple exposé about Wen’s family wealth. The timing of the article, two weeks before the 18th Party Congress that will solidify the future leadership of China for the next decade, seems to indicate that a final showdown between ideological camps is playing out behind the heavy gates of the central government’s Zhongnanhai compound.
Just three days before the article’s publications, overseas Chinese media reported that a portfolio of documents on Wen had been delivered to various foreign media outlets. As Wen presents himself as a champion of China’s liberals and reformers, many assumed that the dirt on Wen was given to foreign media by Wen’s enemies or supporters of former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, the fallen symbol of the conservative camp who yearned for a return to Communist or Maoist orthodoxy.
“What position is the New York Times taking? Have they been bought out by the supporters of Mao?” asked one user. “All sides are making their final moves and positioning their pieces–that is what I think about the NYT’s headline today,” commented another. Some believe the newspaper is being used as a pawn in the power struggle, “This time NYT really does not understand China–too much of a puppet.”
In another twist of timing, Chinese authorities announced that Bo Xilai was officially being investigated today.
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