By Mike Bastin.

It was Fabius Mximus, a Roman politician and General around 300 B.C, who appears to be the first to lay claim to change and progress via gradualist and reformist, rather than revolutionary, means.

While there is more and more talk of the need, indeed urgent need, for structural political and economic change in China, perhaps those calling for such apparent revolutionary reform could take a leaf or two out of the ‘Fabian’ book?

China’s annual National People’s Congressand Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference have just concluded as usual in mid-March. But this most usual of top political events has this time produced some quite unusual and most unexpected outcomes.

It is Bo Xilai’s dramatic and very public ousting that has captured the attention of the ordinary Chinese public. Until now Bo’s career has met with success after success, previously as Mayor of Dalian and then Head of Liaoning province and latterly as leader of theChongqingmunicipal government.

Throughout Bo cultivated a casual, charming and charismatic image in the media, quite a radical shift away from the normally staid and steady nature of Chinese politics.  As a result, Bo was seldom seen with a generally serious and conservative leadership inBeijing. Indeed, it is noteworthy that President Hu Jintao has never visitedChongqingduring Bo’s tenure.

Best known for his recent tenure in Chongqing, Bo’s achievements include an apparent crackdown on organised crime and corruption and for reinstating egalitarian welfare programs for the city’s working class. With Bo at the helmChongqingalso recorded consistent double-digit GDP growth.

So, where did Bo’s downfall really begin and what, if any, lessons can be learned from this most abrupt fall from power? Certainly, Bo is seen as responsible for initiating campaigns to revive a Cultural Revolution-era ‘red culture’, during his time in bothLiaoningandChongqing.  Furthermore, Bo’s political fortunes took a decided turn for the worse when Wang Lijun, his top lieutenant and police chief in Chongqing, recently sought asylum at a U.S consulate in China.

However, the key reason behind Bo’s sudden removal from senior Party circles, at a time when he was widely predicted to be promoted to the Party’s Politburo, is the fact that he appears to threaten revolutionary rather than evolutionary change across China.

Bo and others from this ‘something must be done and done now’ club need to take time out to reflect on just how much change has taken place across all aspects of Chinese society over only the last 10-15 years. Deng Xiaoping opened the door to the West in 1979 but real change only took place around the early to mid-1990s.

China needs further change and reform but there is a limit to just how much change, and rapid change at that, can take place effectively with sustainable success the permanent outcome.

Any attempt at revolutionary change in China will make the falling of the former Soviet Union combined with the break-up of the former Yugoslavia look like the sort of sedate, tranquil tea party held by Queen Elizabeth II once a year for the general public in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

The slow boat to change in China has to be the only way forward.

Mike Bastin is PhD student at the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at University of Nottingham.

Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors.


  1. Mike, you got a good point here. Changes in China needs time, but you should also consider vested interests, which, once formed, are not easy to be devested.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *