flower pots lining the main streets of Chongqing and Chengdu are
full of fresh lilys and roses, heralding the 16th National
Congress. Most Chinese notice the flowers but ignore the banners
flapping above touting the nationís meeting of the minds.
mater how many foreign journalists scramble to get "the story,"
the outcome is of little importance to the average Chinese taxi
driver, shop owner, engineer, businessman etc. The days of decrees
from one man on high are over. They ended with Deng Xiao Ping and
Jiang Zeminís nebulous Three Representatives delivered the
coup de grace. Jiang, during his reign as Paramount Voice in the
Chinese government, conceded power to the various "warlords"
that be in the Provinces, Municipalities and rice fields of China.
was handpicked by Old Deng as his successor after the Tiananmen
crackdown for his "quick and clear action" in Shanghai
at the beginning of the protests. Jiang closed the World Herald
and fired its boss, suppressed the students and toed the Party line
when many were questioning the qualities of the leadership. Those
that questioned, Zhao Ziyang for one, were destroyed in the aftermath
and those that "held strong," Li Peng and Jiang to name
two, were allowed to keep their positions and expand their empires
Li Peng faces the same fate as Zhao in his power struggle with Zhu
Rongji and Jiang is on his way out, already letting go of his "legacy,"
the oft-ridiculed and little understood theory of the Three Representatives.
Jiangís successor, Hu Jintao, is little known and lacks the revolutionary
experience of his predecessors. One can only expect that the center
of China will grow weaker under his leadership as the Black Societies
and new members of the Communist party, namely the capitalists of
China, tighten their grip on the Chinese economy and political machine.
taxi drivers of the nation, the finest barometer of political thought
amongst the populace, love Old Deng and sneer at Jiang. The leaps
made in the 1980s and early 1990s in terms of living standards and
personal freedom have slowed down considerably and everyone is aware
of the plight of the lowly peasant shouldering the hefty burden
of feeding 1.3 billion souls while at the same time hewing the stones
that eventually become the bossís office, the expressway upon which
the boss shows off his new Benz and the walls that separate the
boss from the rest of China.
Party, with Jiang Zemin at the core, has given the Chinese people
a vision of the Promised Land: A future with tribute coming from
all eight directions, a future in which even the Americans must
bow down before the might of a resurgent China. Every columnist
in the world (including me) has written about the future Asian superpower
and the inevitable impact on global economics and culture that a
powerful China will have. Most people believe it, especially the
China will enter this new phase of its history without its most
consistent and reliable ally: an emperor with the Mandate from Heaven.
As in the legends of ancient Greece, the old master gives the student
the tools, then disappears into the wilds to live as a hermit, so
has Old Deng given Jiang a rising dragon to ride, and now Jiang
jumps off and the whole crowd tries to take his place.
is no emperor. He may stay behind the curtain and try his best to
emulate his mentors, but China has already progressed past such
folly. The curtain has been torn down and the emperor has been exposed.
WTO is bringing investors from around the globe into the deepest
reaches of China and the center cannot keep its hand in every pie.
The Sichuanese will deal with Siemens as the head honchos in Xinjiang
will deal with BP Amoco and friends. The whole Opening Up of the
West campaign has been plagued by statements and hand outs from
Beijing that go only as far as the deepest pocket in the Province.
the past, the Emperor hired and fired Provincial officials and made
a note to keep Sichuanese officials in Heilongjiang and vice versa,
to keep them from building a power base. No longer the case. Here
they say "A dragon is no match for the local snake."
this means for the future of China is that the Provinces are relatively
on their own to solve the problems of unemployment, underdevelopment
and corruption. The center can only do so much, and with companies
going straight to the source in this globalized economy, there are
deals going on worth billions of dollars that the center has little
or no control over. Even the creation of special municipalites beholden
unto the center and not the Provincial government has little effect.
The most powerful gangsters in China hail from such municipalitues:
Shenzhen, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Xiamen and Chongqing are virtually
ruled by the Black Society. Who is and who isnít black these days
in China? You want to open a club? Sell cars? Guide Germans through
the maze of Chinese business connections? Better talk to Skinny
16th National Congress is a rubber stamp affair with
balloons, firecrackers and beautiful people singing pretty songs.
The reporters will be all over it hoping to crack through Chinese
secrecy. But they're in the wrong spot. The real power, and with
it the real secrecy, lies in the teahouses, brothel and bars of
the Provincial capitals where the newest inductees into the Party
are laughing at Jiang and counting their money. New Hu will most
likely close his eyes, hang on tight, and hope Zhu, Jiang and other
old hands can guide him through the mess.
Iíve always thought political leaders around the world mirror each
other and the times in which they find themselves: will Hu be a
puppet and posturer like Tony and Little Bush? Will he be slick
and smiling like Bill, Schroeder and Koizumi? It seems Billís time
has passed ...
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is a teacher living and working in China. His articles have appeared
in the South China Morning Post, the Minnesota Daily,
and elsewhere. His exclusive Antiwar.com column (usually) appears
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