A Quest For True Power

A former premier's aide analyzes the Chinese president-in-waiting's vow to fight corruption and keep power reined 'within a cage of regulations.'
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A portrait of Xi Jinping on the cover of a magazine at a newsstand in Guangzhou, Jan. 10, 2013.
A portrait of Xi Jinping on the cover of a magazine at a newsstand in Guangzhou, Jan. 10, 2013.
EyePress News

When General Secretary Xi Jinping solemnly announced his idea that we should "contain power within a cage [of regulations]," it created a stir among the Chinese people, who felt a sense of longing from the past, as if they could smell the scent of flowers growing in a walled garden....

The source

There was a fairy tale circulating back in China in 2002 that told of a president who said that locking himself in a cage was his greatest political achievement.

This was a profound masterpiece, which was only taken to be a fairy tale because it made use of the name of the president of another country.

Eleven years later, Xi Jinping has brought it up again ... as if things are better now, and as if his own bright idea will go to work to fight corruption.

The basis

Clause No. 2 of the Constitution states, "All power in the People's Republic of China belongs to the people."

This is the legal basis, and the correct, legal road.

When it comes to the difficult matter of locking up officials in the cage of the system, we must be clear about this.

We can't depart from or break this law, and we mustn't allow the people's power to be locked in that cage alongside the officials.

China's corruption problem has dragged out to the point where it threatens the existence of Party and state, not because the people wielded their power, but because it was hard for them to do so according to the law.

The fight against corruption is the people's power; it adds up to the Constitution. They are the same thing, not three, or two, different things.


Now, this power that must be caged is located inside the People's Republic of China, and yet it isn't enshrined in the Constitution, and it isn't the people's power.

So what power is it?

This is the power that gives rise to, and protects, corruption....

Perhaps it is false power. It is certainly a form of usurped power. It is an alienated form of true power, and its opposite.

During the 1980s, when those two old theorists Zhou Yang and Hu Qiaomu were having a bit of a debate, Zhou Yang was of the opinion that the alienation described by Marx could take place in a society led by a Communist Party; Hu Qiaomu on the other hand would have none of it.

Several decades later, there is no need to repeat all the abstractions of their arguments....

What we do need is an in-depth look at the history and circumstances of how the true power of the people become alienated from them.


We don't yet know exactly what Xi Jinping means by "the cage of the system."

Perhaps this will include legislation to require China's leaders and their relatives to make a full declaration of their assets. Perhaps it won't.

Maybe it will lead to legislation banning market monopolies and monopolies on resources, and maybe it won't.

It may or may not involve legislation guaranteeing the right of the people and of the media to supervise officials.

Legislation allowing for checks and balances between the three, separate powers might be part of it, or it might not.

Perhaps the General Secretary will make the details clear to us, and perhaps he won't.

He may choose to order the relevant departments to seek opinions from the people. Or, he may not.

Perhaps our leaders are on a quest [to find answers to these questions]. I hope they are paying close attention. We, the people, are certainly on that quest, because that is our vocation.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.





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