This autumn the 18th CCP ccongress will formally select the general secretary and the other 8 members of the Standing Committee. Xi Jiping will become the next general secretary of the party and then the next president of China and Li Keqiang will replace Wen Jiabao as premier. However, how China will develop and, yes, change will depend on who joins them in the standing committee, for if there is something that Bo’s dismissal does emphasis it is that the general secretary is no Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping, but rather a first among equals. Indeed, we can reasonably conclude that it was, at least partly, Bo Xilai’s inability to function “inter pares” that led to his downfall.
The course China will take will be influenced by who is promoted to the standing committee and which position they occupy and with the Guangdong party chief Wang Yang, whose reformist style was frequently contrasted with Bo’s “red culture” approach, being tipped as the next executive vice premier, there just might be an attempt to initiate real reform and, indeed, take risks. Of course, that brings us to the question what reform and what risks can be taken in that veritable house of cards that is the People’s Republic of China.
Naomi Klein in her book ‘The Shock Doctrine’ viewed the Tiananmen massacre in 1989 as paving the way for what she calls “disaster capitalism” in China. The hypothesis is not all wrong and, while we might welcome the downfall of the charming but egocentric, Bo, as representing a real chance for reform in China, there is enough reason to suggest that should there be a real effort to move towards a more open, social equal, and transparent, society in the People’s Republic, the very real disaster capitalists in the west will use every expression of discontent to destabilize the country and apply their own shock therapies. It is, to say the least, extremely naive, to believe that they are going to let China change peacefully and possibly emerge even stronger politically and economically and with a civil society that might even be the envy of the excluded majorities in the west.