中國沒有解決“壞皇帝”問題China has banished Bo but not the 'bad emperor'
作者是斯坦福大學(Stanford)弗里曼•斯波利研究所(Freeman Spogli Institute)高級研究員
The writer is a senior fellow at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute.
more than 2,000 years, the Chinese political system has been built
around a highly sophisticated centralised bureaucracy, which has run
what has always been a vast society through top-down methods. What China
never developed was a rule of law; an independent legal institution that
would limit the discretion of the government. What the Chinese
substituted for formal checks on power was a bureaucracy bound by rules
and customs that made its behaviour reasonably predictable, and a
Confucian moral system that educated leaders to look to public interests
rather than their own aggrandisement.
This system is, in essence, the same one that operates today, with the
Communist party taking the role of emperor.
issue Chinese governments have never been able to solve is what was
historically known as the “bad emperor” problem: while unchecked power
in the hands of a benevolent and wise ruler has many advantages, how do
you guarantee a supply of good emperors? The Confucian
educational system and mandarinate was supposed to indoctrinate
leaders, but every now and then terrible ones would emerge, such as “the
evil Empress Wu”, who killed off much of the Tang dynasty aristocracy,
or the Ming dynasty's Wanli Emperor, who in a fit of pique refused to come out of his palace or sign documents for nearly a decade.
the view of many Chinese, the last bad emperor to rule China was Mao
Zedong, who unleashed unspeakable suffering on the people, and whose
power could not be checked until his death in 1976. The current rules
governing decision-making and leadership at the very
top of the party reflect this experience: responsibility is shared
among the nine members of the standing committee of the politburo; there
are 10-year term limits on the tenure of the president and prime
minister; no one over the age of 67 can be considered
for membership on the standing committee. These rules were designed to
prevent the rise of another Mao, who could use his personal authority to
dominate the party and the country. China's authoritarian system is
thus distinct because it follows rules regarding term limits and
is why the recently purged Bo Xilai was such a threat to the system.
Using his base in Chongqing, he used the media to build up his own
authority, which was strong already given his status as a princeling, or
son of a revolutionary hero .
He was ruthless in the use of state power to go after not just
criminals and corrupt officials but businessmen and rivals who had
accumulated too much power and wealth. He revived Mao-era mobilisation
tactics such as the singing of revolutionary songs at rallies. Unlike his
grey compatriots, he could have dominated the CPC leadership through an
independent power base had he been promoted to the standing committee.
It therefore makes sense that Hu Jintao and the leadership should use
the scandal to eliminate him from consideration and remove the bad
emperor before he
ascended to the throne. The incident has revealed a deep problem in
China – the lack of formal institutions and of a real rule of law. The
rules the Chinese leadership follows are neither embedded in the
constitution, clearly articulated, nor enforced by a judicial system.
They are internal rules of the CPC, which have to be inferred from its
behaviour. Had Mr Bo succeeded in getting on to the standing committee,
he could have overturned them.
the apparent institutionalisation of the Chinese authoritarian system
is largely a mirage. The CPC has not solved the bad emperor problem, nor
will it until it develops something like a genuine rule of law with all
of the transparency and formal institutionalisation that entails.
had a meeting a couple of years ago in Beijing with a mid-level
official heading a central committee office, who told me over a long
lunch that I could not possibly understand China without appreciating
what a total disaster the cultural revolution had been, and how
the current system was organised to prevent that from happening again.
Looking around at the books and memorials to Mao that the CPC was still
promoting, I asked him whether that could happen until the party told
the truth about Mao's legacy. His generation had personal experience
of those terrible events, but people growing up since then did not, and
could be seduced into viewing it with nostalgia. It was precisely that
lack of historical remembrance Mr Bo was exploiting. The official did
not have an answer to my question.
in the end, informal rules observed by a small clique of insiders
cannot really substitute for a formal rule of law. As we can see today,
modern liberal democracies constrained by law and elections often
produce mediocre or weak leaders. Sometimes democracies elect monsters, such
as Adolf Hitler. But at least the formal procedures constraining power
through law and elections put big roadblocks in the path of a really
bad emperor. Despite having beaten back Mr Bo's challenge in the short
run, the Chinese system has not solved this institutional problem yet. It now has a real opportunity to do so, which I hope the new leadership coming into power will take up.
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