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Nathan Gardels

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Bo Xilai Revelations Are Chinese "Glasnost"

Posted: 04/24/2012 1:10 pm

China naysayers are revelling in the avalanche of revelations about the extensive corruption of Bo Xilai's family network. In doing so, they are missing the much larger, and more historically significant, course correction taking place: the advent of Chinese glasnost.

It is surely not lost on the Party leadership that, by exposing Bo Xilai's alleged corruption and feeding the details to the official and Western media, they are confirming in the minds of the Chinese public what most people already assume: corruption is rife among the political elite.

They surely understand that by shining the light on a powerful princeling like Bo Xilai they are shedding light on everyone else. If the old Chinese saying is "kill the chicken to scare the monkey," this is "killing the monkey to scare the corrupt political elite."

Such extensive exposure will make tolerating corruption among the leadership in the future a double standard too great to bridge. How many are already running for cover or figuring out how to clean up their act?

The upcoming leadership and their allies who are orchestrating Bo Xilai's downfall surely know what they are doing. In the Chinese way, this implicit moral assertion from the top is a self-correction. By exposing the Bo family dealings, they are laying the groundwork for a strengthened push for the rule of law that will attack corruption. The course of events so far suggests we can expect this when Xi Jinping takes over next Fall.

Gorbachev's glasnost in the Soviet Union led to the collapse of the Communist Party there because the Party was not performing economically for its people. Once you took the lies away, there was nothing left to prop up the Party's legitimacy.

This is not the case in China, despite massive corruption and the sordid deeds of the past, including the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square. When the lies are gone, performance remains.

While glasnost killed the Soviet Communist Party, it is likely to save the Chinese
Communist Party.

 
 
 
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