Two Choices For Party Congress

Bao Tong says that disgraced Chinese political figure Bo Xilai is a true 'son of the Party.'
By Bao Tong
Share on WhatsApp
Share on WhatsApp
Bo Xilai at the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 14, 2012.

Bo Xilai has already made history, not because of his excision from the case of Gu Kailai, but because he gave us the "sing red, strike black" campaign.

Some say Bo Xilai is an unworthy son of the Chinese Communist Party. This is unfair. True, he displays some characteristics of lawlessness, but didn't Mao Zedong?

Lenin openly proclaimed that the revolution should depend on the direct action of the masses and not on any laws, opening up a whole new world of red terror. Mao Zedong wasn't ashamed of his own lawlessness; on the contrary, he relished it and reveled in it.

This is a message that the Chinese people know by heart. Bo Xilai is merely a good disciple of these ancestors. When it came to morals, Mao and Stalin weren't up to much. So we should judge Bo Xilai fairly. He isn't the unworthy son of the Party; he's the quintessential son of the Party, a chip off the old block.

When it comes to Party quality, no one can surpass Bo Xilai. To sing revolutionary songs is to follow the Party; to strike hard at organized crime is to engage the Party's designated enemies in a struggle to the death.

This is the highest form of revolution, and the toughest kind of discipline. At a personal level, Bo Xilai, under Mao Zedong's spell, engaged in a similar struggle to the death with his own father, whom Mao had designated a "traitor."

Who could compare with such innocent revolutionary spirit, such organizational zeal? It must be pointed out that Bo Xilai's use of "sing red, strike black" as the epitome of the Chongqing model shows that he was himself saturated with the essence of single-party dictatorship.

From the point of view of the Party's leaders, to sing revolutionary songs is to revere only the Party, and to go after organized crime is to crush dissent.

From the point of view of the people, the revolutionary song campaigns mean that they must follow the Party, and the anti-gang campaigns mean that they are willing to act as hit men for the Party. It is no exaggeration to say that where there are "sing red, strike black" campaigns, there you will have a single-party dictatorship, and where there are no "sing red, strike black" campaigns, you will have the death of that dictatorship.

Everything else comes second to this. While other issues may be important, they are not at the root of the system, and so they are not a matter of life and death.

To give an example, while you might find some relative merits and disadvantages between the policies of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Stalin, or Hitler, they were all made in the service of a single-party dictatorship.

This is why, when it came to dividing up the cake or deciding how big to make it, and to a host of issues regarding public housing and the differences between an urban and a rural registration, Bo Xilai was very flexible.

He was able to take steps, within certain limits, to win people's hearts. But he had a very tight grasp on the principle: "Prosper with me, or die against me."

Even as he raised high the banner of "sing red, strike black," the knives were out in force, and his rule was domineering and uncompromising.

Why was this? This was the Bo Xilai model, or Bo Xilai-ism. It was also Mao Zedong Thought in 21st century garb. "Prosper with me, or die against me" isn't a new invention. It is the hideous face of an anti-humanist philosophy dressed up, as if by a miracle, as a sacred revolutionary truth, carried by Bo Xilai to its logical conclusion.

Some people argue that the truth is red, and that black means crime. Is that so? Since when were the nine black categories designated by law? The phrase "turn the country red" clearly marked out the territory for a calamity that had no historical precedent.

One can't run a country without a strong grasp of the concept of law. We don't need romanticism or snappy slogans. We mustn't perpetrate a fraud.

The peculiar quality of the revolutionary songs campaign is that it calls a deer a horse, poisons people's minds, and deifies the leaders. The seizure of political power without elections is spiritualized as "the great victory of the democratic revolution." Plunging the people into poverty and dispossession is immortalized as "the great and mighty victory of socialism."

The widening gulf between rich and poor is sermonized as "socialism with Chinese characteristics." Trampling on human rights is sanctified as "maintaining stability." Lawlessness is elevated to "glory."

Naturally, Bo Xilai himself is deified, at the same time, as the new messiah of the 21st century. The specific function of the "strike black" campaigns was to deal with problems that the law couldn't handle.

It had the ability to send people mad, so that they would strike wherever the Party told them: at rightists, at counterrevolutionaries, at liberalism, striking them all to death!

From the time that they are toddlers, the people are singing red and striking black, every day. They go crazy, while power at the highest level is being transmitted down through one, two, 1,000, or even 10,000 generations. The mighty work continues down the centuries, and a dynasty is established that rules the whole of China.

All of this is implied in that four-word incantation, that divine master plan, of Bo Xilai's: "sing red, strike black."

From very early on, all of this made some very highly placed people in the mainstream of Communist Party opinion very uneasy. Revolutionary songs are Party jargon.

When Lin Biao suggested that people read Mao's writings every day, the then propaganda minister, Lu Dingyi, didn't like it one bit.

He refuted Lin Biao by saying that the delicious taste of Yunnan ham would soon pall if people ate it every day. And when it came to propaganda, Lin Biao had nowhere near as much experience as Lu Dingyi.

Striking black every day is basically to have a cultural revolution every day. And when it came to a harmonious society, or maintaining stability, Bo Xilai had nowhere near as much experience as [President Hu Jintao].

Small wonder that, even during Bo's heyday of 2011, when the cries of the madding crowd for his accession to the throne rose ever higher, people of insight held on to the mainstream, refusing to make the pilgrimage [to Chongqing], to be copycats or to join the wild applause. Not bad!  (Things were pretty complicated even for those who played along. There were very few who thrived only by singing red or concentrating on striking hard.)

Two choices lie before the 18th Party Congress: to throw in their lot with Bo Xilai or to cut him off completely. If they don't want to hold it under Bo's dark shadow, they could always start by quietly dropping the "sing red, strike black" campaigns.

Of course, it would be far more valuable, and far more deserving of people's warm welcome and determined support, if they were to openly and transparently cut their remaining ties with Bo Xilai.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, political dissident and aide to former Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.