Why I Am Leaving the Communist Party By BO XILAI
March 14, 2012
TODAY is my last day as the Chongqing Committee Secretary. After almost 32 years in the Communist Party of China (CPC) — first at the very bottom of the political hierarchy, then 17 years in the eastern city of Dalian, and now in Chongqing — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the people continue to be sidelined
in the way the CPC operates and thinks about generating revenue. The Communist Party of China is the world’s largest and most elite political party and it is too integral to the global supply chain to continue to act this way. The Party has veered so far from the ideological purity of the Cultural Revolution that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but the culture of constant revolution was always a vital part of the CPC’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by the people. The culture was the “la jiao” that made this place great and allowed us to earn the people’s trust for over 60 years. It wasn’t just about making revolution; this alone will not sustain the Party. It had something to do with pride and belief in the Party itself. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for the CPC for many decades. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
But this was not always the case. For more than twenty years, I recruited and mentored young people through our grueling vetting process. I was selected by Chongqing’s Media Department to send “red” text messages to the city’s 13 million cellphone users. Throughout my tenure in Chongqing, I promoted Maoist quotes, “red” songs, and initiatives to encourage young people to live and work in the countryside.
I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look my son in the eye and tell him what a great place this was to work.
When the history books are written about the CPC, they may reflect that the General Secretary, Hu Jintao, and the Premier, Wen Jiabao, lost hold of the CPC’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the CPC’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.
Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of leading China’s Ministry of Commerce, overseeing Liaoning’s development into one of the most economically strong provinces in China, and spearheading Chongqing’s social welfare system, red culture movement, and crackdown on organized crime. Chongqing now has a nominal GDP of over 652.8 billion yuan. I have always taken a lot of pride in texting Chongqing’s people to do what is right for them, even if it means less money for Beijing’s bureaucrats. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular in the CPC. Another sign that it was time to leave.
How did we get here? The Party changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money as a Party leader (and are not currently planning to move to the U.S., Canada, or Australia) you will be promoted into a position of influence.
What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the Party’s “Five-Year Plan,” which is CPC-speak for forcibly evicting people from their land so we can sell it to our friends in real estate. b) “Hunt Mice.” In English: get the people — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to give up whatever will enlarge the Party’s coffers. Call me old- fashioned, but I don’t like selling my people a policy that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to pitch any opaque policy with the words “harmony” in it.
Today, many of these leaders display a socialist culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend Party meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help the people. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an illegal alien from North Korea and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that the success or progress of everyday citizens was not part of the thought process at all.
It makes me ill how callously Party leaders talk about ripping their people off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different members of the Standing Committee refer to their own people as “Shagua,” sometimes over internal text messages. Even after the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the Gang of Four, the June 4th Incident, and “My father is Li Gang”? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will the Party push corrupt and complicated polices on the people even if they are not the most logical investments or the ones most directly aligned with the goals of the everyday Chinese citizen? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.
It astounds me how little the Party gets a basic truth: If the people don’t trust you they will eventually overthrow you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.
These days, the most common question I get from junior cadres about rampant inequality
is, “How much revenue did we squeeze from land seizures?” It bothers me every time I hear
it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior cadres sitting quietly in the corner of the Great Hall of the People hearing about “shagua,” “grey profits” and “moving abroad” doesn’t exactly turn into a model bureaucrat.
When I was a first-year cadre I didn’t know how to text “red” messages, or how to down a whole bottle of Maotai during one banquet. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, memorizing passages from “The Little Red Book,” understanding how to govern, getting to know the people and what motivated them, learning how they defined success and what we could do to help them get there.
My proudest moments in life — getting admitted to Peking University, being selected as the Mayor of Dalian, and serving as the party chief of Chongqing — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. The CPC today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.
I hope this can be a wake-up call to the Standing Committee. Make the people the focal point of your governing philosophy. Without the people you will not have power. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter their power or position. And get the culture right again, so people want to govern for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this Party — or the trust of its people — for very much longer.