The Bo Xilai Incident will not die a quiet death. The plodding censors in the Chinese government are stirring up the rumor pot, and no one is sure if that is the goal or just a byproduct of incompetence and the absurdity of Web censorship in general. According to a recent CNN article, “Heavy hand of China’s censors fuels online frenzy,” there were even rumors of tanks on the streets of Beijing.
As Bill Bishop puts it,
“In the absence of transparency and credible official media, rumors fly,”
Indeed. A rumor I heard yesterday is even more spectacular and is making the rounds here in Chengdu and slowly inserting itself into the online frenzy. It’s probably as unfounded as anything else out there, but with Tibetan spies, dramatic snatches and behind the scenes high-level political deals, it makes for one of the more entertaining rumors out there.
As a responsible journalist, I should point out that the following is a rumor, unsubstantiated and therefore to be taken for what I believe it is: the makings of a great fiction novel.
The Tibet Connection
The self-immolations in Aba, Ganzi and now Qinghai are not actually desperate, grassroots protests against draconian Chinese rule, but the work of foreign and anti-China agents that are aiming to destabilize and perhaps even split the nation. We in the West take for granted that this view is neither true nor even plausible. Instead we yawn and laugh and click over to the New York Times for the truth.
But what if …
CIA agents based out of the Chengdu consulate, in collusion with Tibetan extremists sent to Sichuan from India by the newly elected, US-educated political representative of the Tibetan Government in Exile, fomented and instigated rebellion through staged and/or forced self-immolations?
Well then the Chinese government would have to put a stop to it. But in keeping with traditional sneakyness, they couldn’t actually have the Chengdu or even the Sichuan government march into the consulate and demand that the Americans hand over the Tibetan spies. No no, That would risk an international incident and no one (especially the Chinese) likes true blue espionage related international incidents.
So what to do?
A service for the Emperor …
The Chongqing boss Bo Xilai has already made several waves within the Chinese establishment. The central government likes to think of the world as a vast Go board and success demands careful and studious placement of each piece. This Bo character, with his Strike Hard and Sing Red Songs campaigns, is shifting pieces with no regard to the overall strategy.
Not only that, but the whole princeling clique has to pay in blood for previous acts against the central government and most notably the China Youth League, of which the current big boss is a member.
Wouldn’t it be clever to remove two irritable stones from the board with one single cast? Have Bo send his deputy to Chengdu to snatch the Tibetan spies and we will create a cover story for the whole matter. The Americans will have no choice but to hand over the spies, as we will surround the consulate with our National Police and send tanks from Chongqing to show that non-compliance will result in the international incident we both fear. But we know the Americans. They will hand over the spies and wash their hands of the matter quite quickly.
The story we concoct will bring about the downfall of this meddlesome Bo, but not his complete downfall. In exchange for this service to the Emperor, we will allow Bo a chance at rehabilitation, at a time we see fit. If he refuses this patriotic service, then we will bring him and his deputy down and he will never, ever rise up out of the dirt we pile on top of him.
Give the Americans Face
And not only do we remove the Tibetans and halt Bo’s aspirations (for now), but we also allow the Americans to sacrifice these spies (and reap the reward of six months of instability in the Tibetan regions) without having to explain to their people (and we of course to ours) why the spies were in China, what they were doing, why the Americans let us take them and why we are not going to war. The story we concoct gives both their media and our own netizens something to play with.
Thus is the game of chess played. And just to make sure that the world spins around the facts for another few months, let us censor the web randomly and institute a complete blackout on the mainstream media. The resulting chaos will cover our tracks and eventually blow over in time for both of our great nations to elect (or in our case appoint) new leaders.
The Tibetans, naturally, will remain the pawns they have always been. And the laobaixing of the world will remain, as ever, ignorant and essentially passive.