Xi Jinping’s ‘China 3.0’The financial crisis of 2008 that started on Wall Street made a great impact on Chinese politics. Leftists, who had been pushed aside by the liberalist right since the 1990s, began to gain influence again, creating a progressive model for state-led egalitarianism.
They first paid attention to the city of Chongqing, where Mao Zedong-style egalitarian policies, such as improved housing for farmers, were implemented. The new policy was led by Bo Xilai, a former member of the Central Politburo and secretary of the Communist Party’s Chongqing branch.
Bo finished his defense yesterday with closing arguments in a trial in Jinan, Shandong Province. In the trial on Sunday, he flatly denied he had abused his power as the secretary of the southern megacity to block an investigation into the murder of a British businessman, reportedly by his wife, or that he had hidden his aide’s embarrassing flight to a U.S. consulate.
As Chinese netizens pointed out, the trial seems to be just for show. It looks like a sentence has already been set, and after providing the appearance of a prosecution and defense, the trial has wrapped up. The court has set an example to the public that no one is above accountability, and the defendant saves face by making a strong defense.
However, the show does not end here. Experts say that we need to pay attention to the real showdown between the left and the right happening behind the scenes. Bo could be accused of “treason” as he and his leftist policies had the backing of the Communist Party intellectuals, especially those who flocked to Chongqing in 2008.
The most notable front of the struggle between the left and the right is constitutional order. Earlier this year, the reporters of the Southern Weekly, the temple of liberalism, went on strike because they claim the authorities had intervened in the process of preparing the New Year’s editorial, titled “The dream of constitutional order.” The meddling was considered offensive to the right.
These days, the situation has changed. The People’s Daily ran contributions criticizing the constitutional order three days in a row. That’s a counterattack by the left. Now the front is expanding to the economy. Premier Li Keqiang is promoting rightist reforms. The monopolies enjoyed by state-run corporations are loosening and the government refrains from intervening. The People’s Daily reported that leftists are criticizing the policy, arguing that state-run corporations are the core of Chinese industry.
The free-trade zone in Shanghai is also facing open resistance. Experts predict that the struggle could become more intense when Xi Jinping’s policies are finalized in the fall.
Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, has been researching Chinese intellectual society. In his recent book, “China 3.0,” he defines the Xi era as the “3.0 phase.” He forecasts that a new version of China is to begin, completely different from Mao’s 1.0 and Deng Xiaoping’s 2.0. He argues that the latest confrontation between the left and the right is the struggle to gain hegemony in the 3.0 era.
Bo’s trial concluded with the final arguments by the defense yesterday. But the behind-the-scenes struggle is likely to continue. Depending on the ruling to be made in two weeks at the earliest, the left may suffer or the right could get hit. But the results could determine the future not only of China, but the global political and economic topography.
The author is the director of the China Institute of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by HAN WOO-DUK