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U.S. scholar: Bo Xilai's fall disrupts power transition

2012/04/22 21:06:42

Washington D.C., April 21 (CNA) Bo Xilai's sudden suspension from China's Communist Party Politburo ensures that there will be no orderly power transition in China, an expert with the United States based Council on Foreign Relations said in a recent interview.

Elizabeth Economy said the events that have unfolded since Bo was accused of corruption and his wife's possible involvement in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood "have unmasked what people in and outside China have long discussed: the truly extraordinary level of corruption that pervades the country's political system and the belief of some Chinese officials that the law does not apply to them."

"What makes this frightening for China's leaders, of course, is that it de-legitimizes the party," said Economy.

In a democracy, if people elect a politician like Bo, they have no-one to blame but themselves, but in China, the party is the only one to blame, since the people did not pick Bo, and they did not pick the people that picked Bo, Economy explained.

It will be hard for the Communist Party of China to argue that it knows best, if this is the best it can do, Economy added.

She further pointed out that the party is experiencing inner dissension, and "will have to be more transparent than ever before in presenting the case against Bo and his family to ensure that the Chinese people do not believe this is simply power politics at play."

Bo's political demise might become a wedge for the political reformers in the party to promote greater transparency, and more elections might be introduced within the political system, but there is no guarantee that the reformers will be successful, Economy said.

Moreover, the party leadership will "be worried about how the tentacles of corruption are woven through the fabric of their own families" and whether Bo's downfall will lead people to demand further investigations into corruption among the families of senior party members, Economy continued.

Some observers have compared Bo's political downfall to the death of Lin Biao, Mao Zedong's trusted defense minister, who died in a plane crash, purportedly fleeing China after an abortive coup attempt.

Economy responded that what Lin and Bo shared in common was that both men were too ahead of themselves in their scrambles for power. Lin, however, had already been anointed by Mao, whereas Bo was still trying to ensure that he would be selected as a senior leader.

What struck Economy the most, though, was "the stupefying irony of Bo's downfall."

The politician made his bid for political power "based on moral rectitude and an anti-corruption platform, and yet he is brought down by corruption and truly egregious violations of the law by members of his own family," said Economy.

(By Tony Liao and C.J. Lin)