Zhou Yongkang: he who must not be named, like Yahweh or Yog Sothoth:
Like mafia foot soldiers afraid to testify against their boss until they know for sure he's been disgraced, none of the wide Chinese coverage of the arrests mention Zhou's name. "The four [fallen officials] all worked at different times as secretaries for a high-ranking official who has since left office," reported the Oriental Morning Daily, a Shanghai newspaper; Hexun, a Chinese financial portal, used the same language. The popular web portal Sina evenposted a chart of the hierarchy of those four officials -- without putting Zhou at the top.
In fairness, everybody knows what no one is precisely saying. And maybe there are no words, especially since all the superlatives were used up over the comparative small fry Bo Xilai. I was secptical of initial reports that Zhou was being targeted partly because his final role as security czar meant he was arguably the most hated man in China and it sounded like wishful thinking, and partly because he's such an immense target. You can see this is you break down his career.
Let's do this with imaginary headlines: former Sichuan Party secretary under investigation. Sichuan is China's most populous province. It's a fiefdom with more than a hundred million people. So that alone is a huge scandal. But we're just getting started here. Then there's the man who ran half of China's state oil industry targeted in corruption investigation. Again, massive. Now let's try one of China's nine most powerful men in crosshairs. Even more immense. And then there's net closes on China's former internal security czar and man responsible for security policy in Tibet and Xinjiang for the chop. At one time or other Zhou was all of these things, and associates from each stage of his career have been swept up in the dragnet. The mind just boggles. Isaac Stone Fish goes on:
Imagine a giant wall on a secluded floor in a Beijing office tower housing the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the powerful organization tasked with investigating malfeasance and corruption within the Communist Party. Now, imagine Zhou's name in the center of a web of hundreds of intersecting lines -- a much larger version of the type seen in police stations in U.S. mafia movies. In China, the term guanxi wang -- "network of connections" -- refers to a person's social circle. The web on this wall is Zhou's network, and the threads connect to those with whom Zhou intersected throughout his career: as an oil industry executive in the 1980s and 1990s, as party secretary of China's largest southwestern province of Sichuan from 1999 to 2002, and then as minister of public security until 2007, when he took on his most powerful role.
As a wrinkle on that, imagine a whiteboard at CDIC which contains every category of person on Boss Xi's hitlist: rogue cadre, corrupt corporates, mafiosi, empire builders and - let's say - pesky reformist types. Take down Zhou and you take down all of them. Here and here for instance, we can see a connection being established between Zhou's son Zhou Bin and the family of reformist icon Hu Yaobang through investigating the case of the violent entrepreneur Liu Han. And that's only a tiny part of the story. Perhaps the best way to consider Zhou is as a kind of one man autonomous region with a dependent population that enjoyed a guarantee of complete impunity - until now. So its not so much a corruption investigation here as a kind of reconquista.