And the apples aren’t falling far from the tree. Earlier in the year, we were treated to a rare display of breathtaking corruption within the ranks of the Chinese leadership with the debacle of Bo Xilai, son of a noted Chinese revolutionary, governor and rising political star. But, after his security chief attempted to defect to the Americans, his wife killed a British businessman and Bo’s tomcatting sexual antics came to light, it was, safely, assumed that his political career and influence had come to an end.
When the story initially broke, I thought that the most likely outcome was going to be that the Communist Party was going to make an example of Bo, and they did. It’s far easier to scare people into behaving, and hoping for the best results possible, rather than actually making sure that good behavior ensues. That strategy of actually just hoping for the good behavior to become apparent is no longer possible.
Ling Gu, the son of Ling Jihua, the political ‘fixer’ and Secretary of the Central Secretariat, was in a massive car accident in a Ferrari 458 Spider, with two women in Beijing at 4:00 a.m. March 18th. Ling died at the scene along with one of the women, and was also naked, as was one of the women. The other women was partially undressed. The speculation was that the trio were probably involved in some kind of driving/sex game.
This incident brings up several problems. The first is that in conjunction with the Bo scandal, this makes the Party’s already herculean task of appearing incorruptible impossible. The Communist Party in China is running the show, everyone knows it, though they might not like it. The second is that a transition in leadership is taking place next month, and the worse they look, the harder it is for the current regime, which affects perceptions of stability. And the third issue at stake is that the people of China are getting close to an ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore‘ moment.
You have a kid in his early twenties, both of whose parents are government employees, with what are probably two hookers (or the equivalent of a political jersey-chaser) driving a car that costs $500,000 at 4:00 a.m., which likely means that they’re all absolutely plastered. For a country that’s had to swallow a lot in terms of accepting baldfaced lies while there was tons of prosperity for everyone on hand, that might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
But in an era of slowing growth in China, when the party, increasingly, is looking ever more corrupt, the days are numbered that it can maintain its monopoly on power. It can remain in power if it reforms, or it it shares power. But by doing neither, the party is just putting more fuel into a potential fire that, when eventually lit, and it certainly will someday be lit, may well become a conflagration that engulfs the economic success story of our times. And that wouldn’t bode well for us, either.