Is Xi Jinping Redder Than Bo Xilai Or Vice Versa?

Michael Anti:

Competing for Redness: The Scarlet Bo vs the Vermilion Xi?

Bo Xilai, the fallen Chinese princeling famous for leading a “Red Songs” communist campaign in southwest China's megacity Chongqing, is on trial today, live-Twittered from Jinan in Shandong province, east China. Two days before this legal show, Xi Jinping, the President of China, told the whole country that the government would defend the redness of the regime to the end.

So, who is redder? Neither Bo nor Xi is an orthodox red communist. They both sent their children to crimson-clad Harvard and both have family wealth, counted into the billions of dollars, that could buy them a mountain of rubies. They've both already betrayed Chairman Mao Zedong’s public teachings and the textbook definition of communist. Bo was the Minister of Commerce, in charge of China’s free trade talks with the U.S.A.; Xi was the party boss of Zhejiang province, overseeing a boom in private business there. Neither man trusted a single word of Karl Marx’s all-sharing Utopian vision.

But each man has tried to copy Mao’s secret to power: the redder, the better. Neither man was elected by the people, but rather selected within the Party system, which was founded by their red army fathers. The only difference between Xi and Bo is that, by 2007, when Bo was sent to Chongqing, his dramatic and over-passionate shift to red politics only served to strengthen Beijing's suspicions of his ambition and opportunism—one of the most important reasons why he’s wearing a scarlet letter today.

Xi only showed his red face after he became flush with the vermillion backing of the Party. Since then, Xi has set out to redefine which is the real red, condoning the arrest of both liberal civil society leaders and leftist Mao supporters for being either too bleeding-heart purple or too red-blooded—just not the right shades of red.

The ongoing struggle is not about who is redder. It’s about who has the power to be redder. If Bo Xilai had succeeded in seizing that power, as people once worried he might, the judge sitting here in the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court, would have sung red songs and taken careful notes with every red document issued by Bo, not Xi.



An old China hand with ties to the leadership offered a novel interpretation of Xi Jinping’s Mao-like lean to the left: Like a Clintonian politician, he’s triangulating to co-opt the opposition to gain support for a new round of painful economic reforms.

According to that view, Xi’s Maoist rhetoric is just the spoonful of sugar to make the medicine of privatizing industry and liberalizing banking go down. One possible road map, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, includes allowing farmers to sell their land, an especially sensitive reform that would need broad support to implement.

If the old China hand’s rosy interpretation is right, Xi’s red turn is just camouflage to slip a bigger agenda past. Eventually, a more liberal economy will lead to a freer society, this insider suggested.

That’s little succor to the activists getting arrested in the meantime.