Chinese leadership marks National Day in Tiananmen with show of unity
CHINA’S PRESENT and future leadership placed bouquets at the Monument to the Heroes of the People on Tiananmen Square to mark National Day, the anniversary of the 1949 revolution that swept the Communist Party to power.
The ceremony was a carefully choreographed display of unity, an impressive display of precision marching, with the bold red and yellow flags flapping in the breeze contrasting with the crisp uniforms of the military and the stiff blue suits of the leaders.
President Hu Jintao and his anointed successor, Xi Jinping, as well as premier Wen Jiabao and the man tipped to take over from him, Li Keqiang, were all present and correct to mark 63 years since Mao Zedong assumed control.
Senior politburo figures Wu Bangguo, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang participated in the ceremony, which was watched by 3,600 handpicked spectators.
However, behind the pomp was unease following weeks in which the party has sought to deal with the fallout from the purge of former Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai, China’s worst political scandal since the crackdown on democracy activists in 1989. The Communist Party is trying to engineer a smooth, once-in-a-decade leadership at a time when Mr Bo is facing criminal charges for corruption, abuse of office as well as accusations of sexual impropriety.
As ceremonies to mark National Day continued nationwide, and as 85 million people took to the roads to travel home to see family, there were signs of the challenges facing the next leadership.
Manufacturing activity fell in China for the second month in a row, the latest downbeat news about China’s economic prospects.
The party’s 18th national congress is proposed to convene on November 8th in Beijing. The date is later than originally planned.
The latest speculation in Beijing, which has been a cauldron of rumour all year, is that Mr Bo will stand trial before the succession to clear the decks, which is why the date was put back so dramatically.
State media reported last week that Mr Bo will be handed over for criminal investigation, the latest stage in a scandal that has included the mysterious death of British businessman Neil Heywood and allegations about shadowy dealings at the heart of power in China.
Mr Bo had been seen as a strong contender to become a member of the politburo standing committee later this year, but now he faces up to 20 years in jail. However, even though it looks like a deal was struck allowing Mr Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, to escape the death penalty in return for a confession during a one-day show trial, the Bo family is refusing to lie down.
Mr Bo’s Harvard-educated son Bo Guagua wrote a blog post defending his father’s good name, a move that adds to the overall lack of clarity over what exactly is going on within the factions that make up the party’s top ranks.
“Personally, it is hard for me to believe the allegations that were announced against my father, because they contradict everything I have come to know about him throughout my life,” he said in a statement posted on the microblog site Tumblr. He added: “Although the policies my father enacted are open to debate, the father I know is upright in his beliefs and devoted to duty.”
There are growing signs that the party needs to be seen to be combating corruption if it is to maintain its core support in China.
An editorial in the China Daily said the most pressing issue for the Chinese public was the uninhibited and widespread abuse of power and corruption among government officials and businessmen.
“A series of systematic and structural problems that have impeded the healthy development of the Chinese economy and society have yet to be resolved,” it said.
The editorial said addressing problems “that concern the people’s vital interests and giving more respect to the will of the people in making policies will continue to be a challenge for the Communist Party of China”.