With Gu Kailai and Wang Lijun standing trial in succession, what the foreign media want to see the most would be how deeply did Bo Xilai involve in the cases, how did Gu Kailai channeled up to six billion dollars of fortune out of China through Neil Heywood and others; they also expected to see the CPC authorities chase back the six billion assets that had come from illicit sources, and charge Bo Xilai the political loser with corruption—one of the three crimes the CPC Central Committee leadership prepared back in March this year.
All these media were disappointed. A huge number of journalists with international media including the renowned Washington Post, the Times magazine and others made their way to Hefei, Anhui, only to find themselves merely allowed to observe outside the courtroom. The foreign press deemed the case to be opaque, and the result of the trial only made it even more confusing. Problems like whether or not Neil Heywood was killed by Gu Kailai herself or by an even more mysterious third party killer, and whether the poison that Heywood was fed was tetramine or potassium cyanide remained unresolved. As a result, rumors, including the claim that the person who stood trial as Gu Kailai was Zhao Tianshao from Shandong, fly on the internet.
And the trial of Wang Lijun was heard in private as the case involved “state secrets”, leaving no room at all for people to question.
After all, Chinese lawyers know the reality in China better foreign press and legal specialists of other countries. Rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan tweeted on August 9 that, “The trial of homicide charges against Gu Kailai is a case with 'three designates', which means the CPC designates the jurisdiction, the lawyers, and the observers.” “And if the CPC has not yet designated a verdict, there probably won't be a trial.” To put it plainly, legal professionals in China knew this case would definitely become one with “four designates”.
The most captivating thing of the trial of Gu Kailai was that Bo Xilai, who has always been seen as the mastermind from behind the scene, was completely delinked from the case. Whether it was the trial of Gu Kailai on August 9 or that of the four Chongqing police officers involved on August 10, none of the defendants said anything that would link the cases to Bo. As for the trial of Wang Lijun on August 13, although outsiders could in no way know how it proceeds, one could make guesses based on how the two aforementioned cases played out: unless this third trial were controlled by another faction of the CPC, it would not be possible to incriminate Bo.
This indicates that none of the three crimes that top CPC leaders like Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao and Xi Jinping had prepared to charge against Bo—line struggle, political mistake (corruption), and criminal offenses—had served to pin him down. That was of course not because Bo Xilai himself has command over a force not to be ignored; rather, it was the pervasive influence of Party Central B, the political opponents of Hu and Wen, that constrained Party Central A in several ways, forcing the latter to back down and delink Bo from the cases of Gu Kailai and others.
Judging from the results, Party Central A and Party Central B have reached a compromise. Some of the latest Political dynamics inside China could back this assumption.
First, precisely a day before the Gu Kailai trial was scheduled to be held, 1644 persons, led by such retired veteran cadres as Ma Bin and Li Chengrui, jointly signed an open letter to the CPC Central Committee. The open letter strongly requested that Wen Jiabao be removed from office on the grounds that during his time in office, Wen served as the daring vanguard of promoting revisionism, reviving capitalism in China and surrendering to external imperialism. The letter said Wen was guilty of such major mistakes in principle and crimes as violating the constitution, pushing for privatization in full force, and overturning the economic basis of socialism.
“As has been proven by facts,” that letter continued, “Wen Jiabao has already become the representative of the total Westernization faction, a complete traitor, and the most destabilizing factor for the country now.”
Interestingly though, the reports published in Japan’s Kyodo News, and Yomuri News quoted Conservatives as saying that, “the letter requested in addition that Bo Xilai be treated with leniency.” yet when I cross-checked a piece published in Boxun on the same day that entitled “1644 signed jointly to firmly request the dismissal of Wen Jiabao” and could find no such content.
The request to dismiss Wen was but a trick that aimed to save Bo Xilai from his demise. Nonetheless, it indicates the Leftist advocacy of shared ownership of the economy and resources among the public and the party’s monopoly on power (that is, power being privately owned by an interest group) is hugely popular within the CPC. What the Leftists and new Leftists are dissatisfied with is not the current institution, even though it is the root cause of corruption and the irresponsibility of the government; what they truly object is their being marginalized in this institution.
The reason they placed the blame on Wen Jiabao instead of Deng Xiaoping is that Wen said in a press conference on March 14 this year that “the errors of the Cultural Revolution and the influence of feudalism have not yet been completely eliminated”, a saying indicating that the struggle between Beijing and Bo Xilai is a struggle of two lines: the line of the Cultural Revolution vis-à-vis the line of Reform and Opening.
Second, the six billion dollars that the CPC alleged Gu Kailai to have channeled out of China through Neil Heywood and others was not mentioned in the trial. All that was left was what Neil Heywood wanted as intermediary commission of a project that failed to materialize because of disruption resulting from various factors.
From the statements made in court, the murder was all due to Neil Heywood's greed and improper actions like threatening the personal safety of Bo Guagua; Gu Kailai made that reckless move only out of the deep love of her son. Earlier on, Gu Kailai was said to have bought two mansions in London that worth two million pounds each. Now the Financial Times had verified that those two mansions were purchased by Gu Wangjiang, Gu Kailai's elder sister. Although the newspaper suspect that Gu Wangjiang held shares on Gu Kailai's behalf, it could not obtain direct evidence to prove it.
This indicates the corruption charges that Bo Xilai was supposed to face could hardly stand, at least not in China, a country where pervasive corruption and bribery exists. The two mansions gifted by relatives could not be used as evidence to prove Bo Xilai guilty of “grave political errors” like corruption.
Third, Hu Jintao's command over the military is not strong. This observation is made based upon two incidents. The first incident is that, on August 1, the People's Liberation Army Day, Jie Fang Jun Bao published an article that said, to the surprise of many, “throughout the history of our army, there has never been any instance of collective defection and mutiny, no matter how hostile the situation is; there has never been any instance of individuals who managed to use the army to achieve their personal plots, no matter how cunning those individuals are.”
That article, if read between the lines, insinuated that there indeed were some individuals who sought to use the army (a battalion, a regiment, or even a division1) to their own ends, only that their attempts were not successful.
The second incident is that, the New York Times ran an article on August 8 which reported that Admiral Zhang Qinsheng, PLA Deputy Chief of Staff, took the occasion of a banquet among military leaders to vent his frustration. He said openly that not making him a member of the Central Military Commission was a move behind the times. Hu Jintao was so infuriated at the remarks that he left the venue.
These remind me of another article published on June 19 in Jie Fang Jun Bao, 'The Party Requires Wholehearted Allegiance and Political Awareness from Military Cadres', which served to remind those generals who were half-hearted in their obedience. Together these are the tell-tale signs that Hu Jintao is not as influential in the military as a man in his position should.
Judging from the results of these two trials, one could assume that Bo Xilai has already escaped the three crimes that Party Central A intended to charge him with, the option left for the latter now is to mete out disciplinary punishment to Bo. And judging from the trial of Gu Kailai, Hu Jintao merely tied with his political opponents. Since Hu enjoys three alpha male statuses as he is the country’s president, the General Secretary of the CPC, and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), a tie with his opponents means he has actually lost. However, as indicated by the claim made by the defense lawyers assigned for Gu Kailai that “a mysterious third-party was involved” and the court’s comment that “Gu Kailai has performed major meritorious services”, Party Central A is somewhat reluctant to concede defeat just yet and intends to have something to be used as a “trump card” later on.
The next round of gaming would be the competition for positions in the Politburo Standing Committee, the CMC Standing Committee and the post of CMC vice-chairman. Since this rivalry is happening behind closed doors, it is hard to pinpoint how the situation would evolve until the denouements are revealed. Whether or not Bo Xilai could make a comeback depends on the evolution of the political and economic situation of China after the 18th Party Congress.
1 Added by translator.