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March 31, 2012



This is very well put:

I’ve never been convinced that the ‘princelings’ are a faction in the same way that the Shanghai Gang were and the CYL-populist group are now: as red aristocracy they don’t have to work their way up through patron-client networks in the same way and are free of the collective ties these impose. Nonetheless, they and the Shanghai gang are arguably part of the same loose meta faction of ‘elitists’ urban, more outward looking, from higher party backgrounds, oriented towards the development of the coastal cities and so on. In other words, Wen and Bo were, in a very broad way, factional allies."

This Princelings vs. Shopkeepers framing has had limited usefulness in helping to understand what's been afoot of late and I think it's time we all embraced a lot more messiness.

I also agree it was probably Bo's flamboyance and potential (penchant?) for demagoguery that was his undoing.

Don't know how I've missed this blog. Glad to have had it brought to my attention! Thanks much. - Kaiser Kuo


Good stuff; well argued. Like Wen as "chief weathervane".


This is outstanding.


Marvellous post. A question about this "coast versus interior" thing I've picked up in a few articles here and elsewhere recently: where do Chongqing and, say, Wuhan fit into this narrative? Neither one is remotely near the coast, although I suppose they're both internal ports connected to the Yangtze and thus maybe different from the rest of the interior. Is Bo's allegiance to the meta-faction held to be compatible with having governed Chongqing because that municipality is held to be an honorary coastal city, is I guess part of my question.


There is a Chinese sociological concept of three zones - coastal (rich, hyper-urban, highly industrialised), interior (poorer but rapidly urbanising, typically lower value-added in industry), and western (dirt-poor, exports cheap labour to the coast).

Chongqing would count as interior, Wuhan as coastal, Lanzhou as western (the definition is in terms of human geography rather than physical - and you can get an ocean-going ship up as high as Wuhan).


Ah, excellent, cheers Alex - I see now. Btw, I note that Chongqing is twinned with Leicester and _Wales_!


Cheers, everyone. WRT/ Alex and Malcs, Wuhan wouldn't really count as coastal. Both it and Chongqing are to a certain extent special cases: Wuhan because it was the first Chinese city to really industrialise (heavy industry) and both it and Chongqing became industrial centres partly because of Mao's policy of moving industry to the interior in case of foreign attack.

These days the distinctions also been a bit blurred by the direction of investment inward under Hu (as you'd expect from a 'populist'). Xinjiang, for instance, now has the highest Provincial GDP outside Guangdong. Politburo and PRC hopefuls also tend to get circulated round different provinces with different economic profiles. The relative wealth of these is sometimes used to assess whether they're on the way up or whether their careers have stalled, though this is affected somewhat by the favct that CYL faction people are expected to put time in in difficult Provinces.

Kaiser: sometimes when you look at big, messy, meta factions I think you can just about see a general division of interests that could presage an actual two party system. I mean, if you screw your eyes up and look very hard.


Great post.

Regarding the last paragraph, I think there are actually elements of a CR vs. reform clash in the Bo story. Like you point out, it was primarily Bo's maverick and unchecked governance style that made Zhongnanhai skittish, not the red songs and Mao revival. But one man willing to restructure an economy, fill the prisons, take over the airwaves, etc. all for the sake of political advancement and power grabbing was much more redolent of the CR than anyone was comfortable. So, I considered his ouster a vote for 'reform', at least in the sense that even the CPC wants some internal checks and balances - and the recognition that China must avoid another CR at all costs (which Wen is vocal about).

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