The Myth of Chinese Meritocracy
CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Political scandals sometimes perform a valuable function in cleansing governments. They destroy the political careers of individuals of dubious character. More importantly, they can debunk political myths central to the legitimacy of some regimes.
That appears to be the case with the Bo Xilai affair in China. One enduring political myth that went down with Bo, the former Communist Party boss of Chongqing municipality, is the notion that the Party’s rule is based on meritocracy.
In many ways, Bo personified the Chinese concept of “meritocracy” – well-educated, intelligent, sophisticated, and charming (mainly to Western executives). But, after his fall, a very different picture emerged. Aside from his alleged involvement in assorted crimes, Bo was said to be a ruthless apparatchik, endowed with an outsize ego but no real talent. His record as a local administrator was mediocre.