在担任尼逊总统的国家安全顾问与国务卿期间,对“政治妄想症”有了认识的基辛格,曾说即使是个有妄想症的人,也会有真正的敌人。这个永远将被人们记得是帮助中国对西方开放的人的深刻见解,并不局限于了解是否应该原谅一个人的不理性行为;正如围绕薄熙来倒台的丑闻显示,它也同样可以解释政权的不理性行为。

一般人大概都会同意,作为世界上最大的执政党(有接近8000万名党员),加上拥有核武器的军队及无与伦比的内部安全机制,中国共产党在国内面对的威胁是微乎其微的。然而,它还是不能容忍和平异议,并对信息革命有莫名的恐惧。

按薄熙来事件至今所暴露的淫秽细节来看,包括他的太太被指谋杀一名英国商人,共产党看来似乎有很好的理由感到恐惧。至少,它对权力的控制远没有外表看来那么牢固。重庆原市委书记薄熙来,已成了以往被视为有效、具灵活性和韧力的政权核心,出现系统性腐败及运作失调的象征。

当然,中国高官的贪污丑闻很普遍。政治局的两名成员已因为接受贿赂和道德败坏而入狱。但薄熙来丑闻和一般贪婪和纵情声色案件不同的是,它凸显了中国执政党成员完全目无法纪的行为。根据媒体报道,薄熙来一家人不但累积了巨额财富,还涉及谋杀一个充当他们同外界联系的主要渠道的外国人。

薄熙来在掌权时,因为在重庆打击罪犯和恢复社会秩序而备受赞扬。然而,他和他的心腹在打黑行动时非法扣留、拷打及禁锢许多无辜的生意人的非法行为,现在却被曝光。在公开表示爱国的同时,其他共产党精英却把非法得来的财富转移到海外,并把子女送到顶尖的西方学校和大学。

薄熙来事件也暴露了执政党脆弱性的另一原因:党内领导人的权力斗争和不和。个人的不法行为或性格上的缺点,不是导致薄熙来倒台的原因。他是在同受他的野心和冷酷威胁的对手斗争时落败了。

在今年这个权力过渡时期,党内的明争暗斗和薄熙来不光彩的下台所公开暴露的裂痕,肯定会严重地损害党内高层领导人的互信。中国历史上的动荡和其他地方独裁政权失败的经验显示,一个不团结的专制政体是不会长久的。它最危险的敌人往往来自内部。

此外,共产党处理薄熙来事件的笨拙方式,显示它没有能力应对互联网时代一个快速发展的政治危机。党内的斗争显然可能是中国政府在处理薄熙来事件时迟疑不决和手法笨拙的背后原因,但共产党起初尝试掩盖事件的严重性,则进一步损害了自身的公信力。

当薄熙来的下属公安局长王立军,相当公开地在离重庆不远的成都美国领事馆寻求庇护时,共产党还以为可以掩饰薄熙来的丑闻。中国官员用可以让英国作家乔治·奥威尔(George Orwell)感到脸红的话说:王立军因“工作过劳”,正在接受“休假式治疗”。事实上,他正受到秘密警察的盘问。

让共产党领导人丢脸和因为操心而睡不着觉的,是众所周知的“长城防火墙”在事件中没有发挥功能。审查互联网和手机简讯的努力没有取得效果。中国人民——这在历史上是头一遭——得以几乎在即时的情况下,紧跟党内最高层的一场权力斗争的发展,并公开表达他们的意见。

幸运的是,公众对像薄熙来这样的领导人的目无法纪和贪污的愤怒,是发泄在网络而不是街头上。但另一次政治危机爆发时,谁知道会发生什么事?

我们可以肯定,这正是中国领导人对自己所提出的问题。这可以帮助我们了解,为什么一个看来表现一直很杰出的政权,会这么害怕自己的人民。

我们很难知道,有真正敌人的妄想症是不是比较容易处理。然而,对统治世界上最大国家的中国政府来说,妄想症本身已成了问题。要克服它不仅要改变思维模式,也要完全改变整个政治体制。

美国克莱蒙麦肯纳学院政治学教授

The Paranoid Style in Chinese Politics

Henry Kissinger, who learned a thing or two about political paranoia as Richard Nixon’s national security adviser and Secretary of State, famously said that even a paranoid has real enemies. This insight – by the man who will be known forever for helping to open China to the West – goes beyond the question of whether to forgive an individual’s irrational behavior. As the scandal surrounding Bo Xilai’s dramatic fall from power shows, it applies equally well to explaining the apparently irrational behavior of regimes.

Most reasonable people would agree that the world’s largest ruling party (with nearly 80 million members), with a nuclear-armed military and an unsurpassed internal-security apparatus at its disposal, faces negligible threats to its power at home. And yet the ruling Communist Party has remained brutally intolerant of peaceful dissent and morbidly fearful of the information revolution.

Judging by the salacious details revealed so far in the Bo affair, including the implication of his wife in the murder of a British businessman, it seems that the Party does indeed have good reason to be afraid. If anything, its hold on power is far more tenuous than it appears. Bo, the former Party chief of Chongqing, has come to symbolize the systemic rot and dysfunction at the core of a regime often viewed as effective, flexible, and resilient.

Of course, corruption scandals involving high-ranking Chinese officials are common. Two members of the Party Politburo have been jailed for bribery and debauchery. But what sets the Bo scandal apart from routine instances of greed and lust is the sheer lawlessness embodied by the behavior of members of China’s ruling elites. The Bo family, press reports allege, not only has amassed a huge fortune, but also was involved in the murder of a Westerner who had served as the family’s chief private conduit to the outside world.

While in power, Bo was lauded for crushing organized crime and restoring law and order in Chongqing. Now it has come to light that he and his henchmen illegally detained, tortured, and imprisoned many innocent businessmen during this campaign, simultaneously stealing their assets. While publicly proclaiming their patriotism, other members of China’s ruling elites are stashing their ill-gotten wealth abroad and sending their children to elite Western schools and universities.

The Bo affair has revealed another source of the regime’s fragility: the extent of the power struggle and disunity among the Party’s top officials. Personal misdeeds or character flaws did not trigger Bo’s fall from power; these were well known. He was simply a loser in a contest with those who felt threatened by his ambition and ruthlessness.

The vicious jockeying for power that the party faces during its leadership succession this year, and the public rift that has resulted from Bo’s humiliating fall, must have gravely undermined mutual trust among the party’s top leaders. China’s history of political turmoil, and the record of failed authoritarian regimes elsewhere, suggests that a disunited autocracy does not last very long. Its most dangerous enemy typically comes from within.

Moreover, the amateurish manner in which the Party has handled the Bo scandal indicates that it has no capacity for dealing with a fast-moving political crisis in the Internet age. While political infighting obviously might lie behind the Chinese government’s hesitancy and ineptness in managing the scandal, the Party undermined its public credibility further by initially trying to cover up the seriousness of the affair.

After Wang Lijun, Bo’s former police chief, very publicly sought asylum in the United States’ consulate in Chengdu, a city some four hours from Chongqing, the Party thought that it could keep the Bo skeleton in the closet. Using language that would make George Orwell blush, officials declared that Wang “suffered from exhaustion from overwork” and was receiving “vacation-style treatment”; in fact, he was being interrogated by the secret police.

What made the Party’s top brass lose face – and sleep – was the failure of China’s famed “Great Firewall” during the Bo saga. Attempts to censor the Internet and mobile text services failed miserably. Chinese citizens, for the first time in history, were able to follow – and openly voice their opinions about – an unfolding power struggle at the very top of the Party almost in real time.

Fortunately for the Party, public outrage over the lawlessness and corruption of leaders like Bo has been expressed in cyberspace, not in the streets. But who knows what will happen when the next political crisis erupts?

China’s leaders, we can be sure, are asking themselves precisely that question, which helps to explain why a regime that has apparently done so well for so long is so afraid of its own people.

It is difficult to say whether a paranoid with real enemies is easier to deal with than one without any. But, for China’s government, which rules the world’s largest country, paranoia itself has become the problem. Overcoming it requires not only a change of mindset, but a total transformation of the political system.

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