When Will China Produce Political Genius? – Liang Jing (梁京)
Answers to the riddle of the CPC’s 17th National Party Congress will soon be revealed. The frustration and fascination of the political game in China no doubt lies in the fact that outsiders have to keep trying to guess the riddle up to the very minute before all is made known. The latest rumor is that Zeng Qinghong, steadfastly refusing Hu Jintao urging him to stay, is set to step down. Filling the power vacuum left by Zeng, Xi Jinping has become the biggest upset winner in the 17th National Party Congress, who will not only enter the Standing Committee, but will also replace Hu’s choice of successor Li Keqiang, becoming a candidate for becoming General Secretary at the 18th National Party Congress, and together with Li Keqiang as new candidate for the premiership, complete a “double succession” for the summit of power of the CPC.
While I don’t think this rumor is based on hearsay evidence, new ones may of course always emerge, and the possibility cannot even be ruled out of Zeng Qinghong returning to the core of power. However, the possibility of him giving up his power is clearly quite large. His application for his son to migrate to Australia came out this summer, which no one apparently came out to refute; which showed Zeng had very likely made arrangements for his safe retirement from the game.
There are grounds for a sigh or two of regret over Zeng’s departure. Those who understand him a little realize that, like him or not, Zeng is the most capable, most politically experienced person in the CPC core leadership. Among CPC princelings, he is the branch whose roots are straightest and whose shoots are reddest; Zeng Sheng, his father, was a veteran who helped Mao Zedong set up the Jinggangshan base area, and for years took the rap for Mao for liquidating the AB Corps. Following the Lin Biao incident, Mao decided to make further use of Zeng Sheng, but the excessive pressure end up accelerating his death. Zeng Qinghong’s network in one of widest among the princelings. His father was a direct member of the Red Army, but his mother originated from the Red Fourth Army commanded by Zhang Guotao. Hence Zeng Qinghong is one of a very few people in the Chinese Communists power bloc able to mobilize two as yet unreconciled army factions. Zeng Qinghong’s scholarship is outstanding among princelings, and still more rare is the fact that he was returned to his father from concealment in the countryside only at the age of nine, giving him experience of the difficult lives of ordinary people that is generally rare among the children of senior cadres.
It is quite clearly difficult for Hu Jintao to match the “red capital” inherited by Zeng Qinghong. However, he used up his political capital and personal talents to “support” Jiang Zemin, the offspring of traitors, the “young master of Yangzhou” who in fact has no connection to the Party’s “revolutionary traditions.” In this process Zeng, heedless of infamy, aided and abetted Jiang in harming the nation, in entrapping worthy people, in completely changing the nature of China and subverting the ideals of his father’s generation. what kind of psychic journey he underwent will be a mystery a mystery for future generations to explore in the distant future.
Everyone who has dealt with Zeng Qinghong is aware that he is no mediocrity, so what kind of talent is he actually? In my opinion, he is an eccentric or perverse genious of the behind-the-scenes power game. What is in fact intriguing about him is that rather than being outstanding in the presence of others, he is the most adept at pulling strings behind the scenes. He lacks high principles, nor pursues success in some cause, but is an exotic flower nurtured in the China’s distorted political ecology.
Most political figures raised in China’s grand unitary political ecology are mediocrities and lackeys, but systematic operations are unsustainable relying entirely on mediocrities and lackeys; perverse talents like Zeng Qinghong are hence needed as well. Such people may be brilliantly effective, but lacking high ideals, their sole meaning and joy in life is the power game. If the core of grand unitary power were totally occupied by mediocrities and lackeys and had no place for eccentric talents like Zeng Qinghong, the game would be seen to be in serious crisis, and a political animal like Zeng is most sensitive to this.
Historically, periods of grand unity completely dominated by mediocrities and lackeys ran into serious problems, and were generally followed by “tough guy” eras; an array of leadership hopefuls would rise and strove for supremacy. In ages of either of mediocrities or of tough guys the Chinese people would suffer an indifferent fate”if they did not die in revolutions, they would eke out their lives in misery. Why don’t they hope for an era of genius? This is because no political genius of complete integrity and ability can survive in the political game of grand unity.
Unless China gives up the myth of grand unity genuine political genius swill never be able to emerge.