Until March this year, members of China’s ‘new left’ could have been forgiven for being in good spirits.
Their hero, Bo Xilai, seemed likely to be promoted to the Politburo’s nine-person Standing Committee – the elite body running China. During his tenure as Chongqing Party Secretary Bo had sparked a resurgence of interest in “leftist” or Maoist sentiment, with policies such as low-cost housing. Most notably, Bo vigorously promoted the singing of ‘red’ songs said to date back to the era of the Great Helmsman and his proletariat revolution.
But this week’s announcement (see story, page 7) only confirmed what many had already suspected – Bo’s political career is over.
The question now is whether that means that the ‘new Left’ is also a spent political force?
For the time being at least, it seems to be the case.
Referring to the popular apocalypse movie 2012, the liberal scholar Wu Jiaxiang posted the following on his Sina Weibo account: “The year of 2012 is the end, only it’s not the end of the world, it’s the end of China’s leftists.”
The new Left, as the Economist magazine explained last month is “an array of forces, ranging from born-again Maoists to ultra-nationalists and hardline elements of the establishment itself.” This diverse group are the “inheritors of an orthodox tradition,” the magazine thought.
But now it seems that old-school thinking is out of fashion. The day before Bo was dumped as Chongqing’s boss, Premier Wen Jiabao used a news conference to warn that, without continued reform, “historic tragedies like the Cultural Revolution could happen again”. The phrase was taken by many as a direct reference to Bo’s ‘sing red’ campaign.
Initially the new Left seemed unbowed, with its supporters continuing to hold meetings, give talks and use their websites to publish thinly- veiled attacks on Wen for his “rightist” policies.
But one by one over the past couple of weeks, the neo-Maoists, as they are also sometimes known, have been slowly silenced, as the “reformists” or “rightists” have “gained the upper hand”, comments the Washington Post.
The ‘sing red’ campaign (see WiC101) was brought to an abrupt end when notices appeared in Chongqing parks saying nearby residents had complained about the noise.
Meanwhile the LA Times was reporting that better-known ‘new left’ advocates were cancelling their speaking engagements.
But perhaps the most telling evidence was the closure of neo-leftist websites such as Utopia and Maoflag.net for a month. Last Friday attempts to access both were met with a message that the State Council and the Public Security Bureau had ordered them shut for being “against the constitution” and for “malignantly attacking the country’s leaders and spreading rumours about the eighteenth Party congress.”
The congress is due to be held in October, when the Communist Party is expected to unveil the men (and possibly one woman, Liu Yandong) who will lead the country for the next five years.
Speaking to the Legal Affairs magazine last week Yang Fan one of the new Left’s ideological founders said, “There is not too much hope now. Those leaders are gone. The whole Chinese ideological circle will make a big step toward the right.”
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