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With Bo gone, rival grabs the limelight

Publication Date : 17-05-2012


When Bo Xilai was purged, many observers believed it was the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership sending a clear signal to its cadres - no open campaigning for a promotion.

The former Chongqing party boss was deemed to have fallen afoul of his secretive masters in Beijing, with his brash, media-friendly pitch for a seat in the supreme Politburo Standing Committee when the party reshuffles its leadership deck this autumn.

But evidently, in the two months since Bo was stripped of all titles, no one has conveyed that message to high-profile Guangdong party boss Wang Yang.

Instead of keeping his head down, avoiding the media and quietly lobbying for promotion to the Standing Committee, Bo's rival has done the exact opposite. He cannot stop talking.

Maybe he is just excited. He has had a public feud with Bo for years, clashing over opposing development models.

As Hong Kong-based analyst Willy Lam said: "Wang has reason to be happy or a bit exuberant because his ideological opponent is politically dead."

But he has not just been making safe and prosaic statements like most of his Politburo-level comrades.

Instead, his soundbites have been rather edgy and eye-catching. In other words, not unlike Bo's.

Wang, 57, has called for smaller governments in a one-party system, and even encouraged journalists to report undercover on fake goods to help crack down on such products, pledging to provide police protection.

Last week, he issued a startling call to the people to not expect the Communist Party to provide happiness.

"It is the people's right to pursue happiness and it is the party and the government's responsibility to do good for the people," he told the opening of the province's party congress.

Then he added: "We should eradicate the wrong concept that happiness is a benevolent gift from the party and the government."

The statement is a clear departure from decades of propaganda urging the Chinese to view the CCP as a benefactor and the provider of happiness.

But analysts believe that Wang will not be censured, let alone purged.

"After Bo Xilai was purged, it is clear that Wang Yang is on the right track. He can't go wrong now," said political analyst Zhang Ming from Renmin University.

In other words, the downfall of Bo is a clear indication that Wang's "Guangdong model" is the path which Beijing finds acceptable.

It is a development strategy which favours a greater role for private companies and a more liberal slant in politics.

For instance, Wang pushed for a peaceful and consultative resolution to the famous uprising in Wukan village in Guangdong last December.

It is in contrast to Bo's leftist "Chongqing model", which pushed for a greater role for state enterprises mixed with a bizarre socialist retro beat and a more hardline approach to law and order.

"Now that Bo is down, China is not likely to go left any more. Wang's words show that the broader direction that has been agreed on is one of reform," said Professor Zhang.

It is also likely that he has the confidence to maintain a prominent public image because his seat on the new Standing Committee has been largely assured.

Wang and Bo were in the 25- man Politburo and strong contenders for one of the precious nine seats a level up.

"I believe his entry to the Politburo Standing Committee is secure, so there is little risk (in speaking). There is a 90 per cent chance that Wang Yang will get in," said Lam.


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