For years, China’s unelected top officials nurtured the carefully crafted image that they were above the corruption and scandal that plagues lower leaders. The FT reports:
A year ago, when citizens in the Chinese village of Wukan rose up in rebellion against corrupt local officials and fought running battles with riot police, they continued to insist on their undying allegiance to the country’s top leadership.In the many small uprisings that continually bubble up across China, the protagonists almost always believe that if the country’s enlightened leaders only knew about local corruption they would descend like a deus ex machina to administer justice.
But the Bo Xilai scandal has ripped away the veil, revealing to ordinary Chinese and the world that the rot goes all the way to the upper leadership:
Far from revealing authoritarian China’s meritocracy and ability to self-correct, the Bo Xilai saga underscores how its leaders believe they are above the law and how little accountability there actually is. […]As the party tries to pull off an orderly and smooth transition, many are now questioning why Bo was allowed to get away with that long list of alleged crimes for so long.They are also starting to ask how different Mr Bo really is from the other unelected men who run China.
This is a huge problem for the party leadership. It’s suddenly a lot harder for ordinary Chinese to swallow the story that the huge fortunes accumulated by their country’s princelings and potentates are the legitimate rewards of hard work and keen business sense. State-controlled media is working overtime to drive the Bo narrative in a direction that bolsters the party, but this is getting harder to do every day.