07/11/2014, 00.00
CHINA
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Bao Tong: Xi Jinping hunting "tigers", but must not muzzle public discourse on corruption

by Bao Tong
The arrest of former vice president of the Central Military Commission and other senior officials has sparked heated debate. President Xi seen as a bulwark in the fight against corruption. In reality, the system is organized and widespread, while activists and citizens are relegated to the margins. The analysis of Bao Tong, a former collaborator of Zhao Ziyang, who spent years in prison and under house arrest for having sided against the Tiananmen massacre.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - There has been an intense reaction, as I have heard it, to the identification of Xu Caihou, former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, as a tiger. There has been a very strong positive response: President Xi [Jinping], who has to deal with a million crises every day, still has to take time out to deal with the fight against corruption and clean up the mess left by his predecessors. This is all very moving. Xu Caihou was a soldier of fortune who bought his position, and this only because former president Jiang Zemin liked him, and put him in charge of all the politics and officials across the whole military. He messed up the People's Liberation Army (PLA), and was foisted on President Hu [Jintao] when Jiang 'retired' and told him to sit at Hu's right hand. From his position as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, he continued to corrupt and destroy the combat effectiveness of the armed forces.

In the past, President Jiang loved him. President Hu feared him. Today, President Xi neither loves nor fears him, and is kicking him out of the party on behalf of the military, which of course is a big boost for morale. And Xu isn't the only tiger. According to people who follow politics, if you count anyone above the rank of provincial chief or minister as a tiger, then President Xi has bagged more than 30 of them since taking office, and Xu is just a fairly large one. (When I say 'fairly large,' I mean that it was President Hu and Premier Wen [Jiabao] who took down [former Chongqing party chief] Bo Xilai, so he's not counted here.)

What other country in the world, from Africa to the Americas, from Northern Europe to South Asia, has bagged more than 30 tigers in a single year? Not one. Only China. And in what other era in China's history have so many tigers been caught? In no other era. Only in this one, which must therefore be a golden age unmatched anywhere else in the world, and at any other period of history.

If what they're saying is true, then President Xi must be a big tiger-slaying hero.

Questions

This sort of reaction makes me worry about the future of President Xi and the future of China. If the struggle is so fierce, when will our leaders be able to kick back and relax? Will President Xi be able to cope with all the work? Walled in as he is by mountains of files, and up to his eyeballs in laws, how will our leader be able to deal calmly with domestic and foreign affairs?

President Xi may well be the sort of genius who only comes along once in a century, but what if he is replaced by a regular person in 10 years' time? How will they take on such a burden?

Who will the people turn to then to save them from dire straits? If it was so hard to catch this dead tiger, Xu Caihou, then how will we deal with all the much more powerful and influential living tigers?

Will Xi's successor just wash their hands of the job? Because of course there are far more than 30-something tigers in China; maybe five or 10 times more, or thereabouts. This will be a bitter struggle that takes 50 years.

And how should we deal with all the new tigers that are getting born along the way? Should we go after this one and not that one? Which one should we aim for? And which one should we allow to get away?

And what basis exists in law for such a selective-or highlighted-approach to fighting corruption? Does the party's internal disciplinary system uphold judicial independence, or enforce the law strictly?

If we suppress public opinion and forbid citizens from taking part in the fight against corruption, aren't we trampling all over the mass line and the principle of 'serving the people'?

If we arrest all those citizens who call for a system for officials to declare their assets, won't we just end up with an anti-corruption drive in the form of a political struggle session, designed from the top down?

Under such circumstances...how can the fight of 1.3 billion people against corruption have any effect at all?

Fears not unfounded

I think if people worry about such things, their fears may be a low priority, but they're certainly not unfounded.

That's why I think that we as a nation have got to the point where we must keep a cool head.

© Radio Free Asia. All rights reserved to Radio Free Asia. 

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