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Assassination Rumors in China

A return to “the ruthless era of ancient Chinese palace politics”?

Gordon G. Chang


December 10, 2013 - 11:03 pm
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For about a week, assassination rumors have been swirling around the Chinese capital. According to reports carried in Hong Kong outlets such as Mingjing News, Zhou Yongkang has been detained for involvement in a plot to kill Xi Jinping, the newish ruler of China. Since then, various sites, especially the U.S.-based Boxun News, have carried articles relaying murderous activities attributed to Zhou, who was the country’s internal security czar until November 2012.

Zhou, 71, has also been accused of using two members of the People’s Armed Police — once under his command — to kill his ex-wife. His two drivers reportedly confessed to their role in the murder and were given terms of 15 to 20 years in prison. According to news articles, they were released after serving just three and four years and given jobs in the state-run petroleum industry, which at the time was controlled by Zhou and his political allies.

These various reports, widely circulated, remain unconfirmed, although it is clear the once mighty Zhou is in political trouble of some sort. In November, state media reported that he offered condolences to the family of an educator, an indication that he was still in good standing in the Party. Nonetheless, it is curious that Zhou has dropped out of view. He was last seen in public on October 1, at the National Day celebrations of the China University of Petroleum.

Moreover, his son, Zhou Bin, is reported to be under a form of house arrest in Beijing and cooperating with authorities. A number of Zhou Yongkang’s associates in the petroleum industry — most notably Jiang Jiemin — have been detained. Also under investigation, according to one source, are Zhou’s secretary, bodyguards, and drivers.

The rumors of last week, although highly sensational, provide a context for events in the past few months that at the time had seemed out-of-place. In August, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported that Zhou was under investigation for corruption.

Then, the move against Zhou seemed to be an unprecedented violation of the Communist Party’s unwritten rule that no member of the Politburo Standing Committee can be held accountable (Zhou left the Standing Committee, the apex of Chinese political power, in November 2012). The prosecution, however, becomes more understandable if he in fact plotted to kill Xi Jinping.

It should also be noted that the rumors about Zhou’s coup attempt give credence to the stories that in March of 2012 there was gunfire inside Zhongnanhai, the Communist Party leadership compound in Beijing, and in the surrounding streets, where there were also armored car movements.  And the unconfirmed stories add to the speculation that Bo Xilai, once China’s more openly ambitious politician, was trying to either raise a private army or encourage elements of the People’s Liberation Army to support him in subversive endeavors of some sort. Bo and Zhou are believed to have been, if not co-conspirators, then extremely close allies.

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The top 50 leaders in the Chinese Communist Party, are worth a collective $94 Billion. You don't get that rich on government pay unless you are completely corrupt. So every time you see these accusations of corruption, it is just a political power play. Zhou controls the state-run petroleum industry, which is a cash cow that more powerful politicians want to milk.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Forget grand opera; think grande guignol.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Start up the popcorn popper.

Forget who holds our T-Bills. Forget who provides that pipeline to Walmart.

An grande opera production is emerging out of the mists and also the tangled briars of the steep hillsides; mutterings and imprecations are wafting over the spinning grinding wheels of the sword sharpeners.

Yellowed scroll-texts are being unrolled detailing herbal side effects......Potions are being mixed. Joss sticks assembled.

Family trees are being scrutinized closely.

Take your seats, the house-lights are dimming.

45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Chinese politics are still largely dynastic and imperial in form. The only part of China that has grown past that to some degree is Taiwan. And that took time. After Chiang Kai-shek died, his son Chiang Ching-kuo succeeded him as president. It was only after he died that a real electoral system prevailed in Taiwan.

Mainland China under the Communists never has evolved. Consider the many purges from 1949 to the Great Cultural Revolution where rivals for leadership were removed. And the "Lin Biao incident", wherein Mao's chosen successor and Mao's last wife conspired to overthrow him and take power.

China has tremendous internal problems; economic [their version of "quantitive easing" is more than the US and EU combined], demographic problems, and a revolution of rising expectations] and the generational transition has not gone well; always a problem for authoritarian and especially Marxist regimes. A coup attempt by the head of the Public Safety Bureau is not something to be dismissed.

Subotai Bahadur
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
No matter what they call it in public, in private it is still, and will always be "The Middle Kingdom" ruled by the 'Mandate of Heaven". And Woe to any who deny it.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
So, a nation that is hardcore communist, to which a huge volume of US manufacturing has been relocated, and to whom the US owes trillions in national debt - is now exposed as little more than yet another 3rd world nation that is subject to political assassinations and the inherent instability that results thereof.

Brilliant. Frickin' brilliant...
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not just manufacturing, either.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
...people want to, among other things, destabilize the Party...

To what end? A more hardline PRC? Warlord factions?
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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