The intrigue surrounding Bo Xilai shows no sign of abating in China. Bo himself has been sacked, but now his legacy as mayor of Chongqing is under attack.Always an ambitious man, Bo had hoped to claim a seat on the powerful Politburo Standing Committee by taking on the rampant corruption in his city. To this end, he orchestrated a very public campaign, called “smash black”, that resulted in a stunning number of arrests and trials over a relatively short period of time. According to the New York Times, “in 10 months, 4,781 people were arrested, including business executives, police officers, judges, legislators and others accused of running or protecting criminal syndicates.”As the Times explains, “smash black” has come under heavy criticism in the wake of Bo’s removal from his post:
Once hailed as a pioneering effort to wipe out corruption, critics now say it depicts a security apparatus run amok: framing victims, extracting confessions through torture, extorting business empires and visiting retribution on the political rivals of Mr. Bo and his friends while protecting those with better connections.“Even by Chinese Communist Party standards, this is unacceptable,” said Cheng Li, an analyst of the Chinese leadership at the Brookings Institution. “This is red terror.”
Bo was considered a rising star in the Communist Party. Six of the nine current members of the Politburo Standing Committee had traveled to Chongqing since 2009 (notably, President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao were not among those six). Bo’s rise to national prominence was attributed in large part to the perceived success of his “smash black” campaign. With the man himself removed from power, it’s not surprising that his signature program is also being swept into the dustbin of Chinese Communist Party history.The portrait Chinese leaders had hoped to paint to the outside world of a smooth and seamless transfer of power is instead morphing into a general picture of lawlessness, corruption and terror that has some, including Wen, openly referencing the Cultural Revolution. This isn’t the kind of talk the Chinese wanted during the sensitive transition period, but exposing this sort of behavior may be exactly the tonic China needs.