Barrie Maguire

Chinese Shadows

Things always tend to get interesting in China before a National People’s Congress, where the Communist Party’s next leaders are anointed. With the downfall of Bo Xilai and the flight of human-rights activist Chen Guangcheng to the US Embassy, this time is no different.

NEW YORK – These are interesting times in China. A senior Communist Party official, Bo Xilai, is brought down – accused of offenses that include wire-tapping other party bosses, including President Hu Jintao – while his wife is investigated for her alleged role in the possible murder of a British businessman. Meanwhile, a blind human-rights activist escapes from illegal house arrest, finds refuge in the United States’ embassy in Beijing, and leaves the compound only after claims that Chinese authorities in his hometown had threatened his family.

Despite exhaustive press coverage of these events, it is remarkable how little we actually know. The British businessman’s body was allegedly cremated before any autopsy was conducted. None of the lurid tales about Bo’s wife have been proven. And the reasons for her husband’s political disgrace remain murky, to say the least.

Things always tend to get interesting in China before a National People’s Congress, where the Party’s next leaders are anointed. Leadership change in most democracies is a relatively transparent process; it follows national elections. To be sure, even open democracies have their share of opaque jockeying and deal-making in what used to be called smoke-filled rooms. This is particularly true in East Asian countries, such as Japan.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/wp8kr3Y;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.