Spring cleaning for the CCP

Periodic purges have come to be expected from monolithic regimes. And China has seen a fair share of purges since the Communists took power in 1949. True to tradition, on March 15 the Chinese Communist Party dismissed Bo Xilai, the populist Chongqing Committee Secretary who was a front runner to enter the nine-member Politburo in this fall’s transition of power. Ostensibly Bo’s firing reflects the conflict between conservatives and reformers. The day before the announcement of Bo’s sacking, Prime Minister Wen Jibao, in a uncharacteristically critical public speech at the close of Fifth Session of the 11th National People’s Congress, warned of a “return to the Cultural Revolution,” which Bo represented with his fiery anti-corruption rhetoric and campaign against organized crime. As a pretext, Bo’s rivals pointed to the recent scandal in which Chongqing police chief Wan Lijun, a Bo loyalist, sought asylum at the city’s US consulate, only to be turned over to the Chinese government. While the official censure of Bo may appear to be a victory for “progressive” reformist elements in the CCP, the methods of achieving such progress are so patently a vestige of Cultural Revolutionary tactics that it begs the question of how viable any attempt at reform will be.