Bo’s downfall seen from Korean perspective
Sacked from his post as Communist Party boss of a municipality, suspended from the party’s powerful politburo, his wife is suspected of killing a foreign businessman, his son indulges in a luxurious life overseas and relatives accumulate huge fortunes.
The string of allegations that erupted after Chinese politician Bo Xilai fell from grace to shame is quite interesting, prompting Korean media outlets to rush to print a lot of stories about the Bo Xilai scandal, probably the most serious crisis for China’s Communist leadership since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Most Koreans seem to read sensational news stories with unfailing interest but hardly show any particular reaction.
However, they may be keeping a close watch on the China situation, conscious of the ``special relations’’ between Korea and China, the world’s most populous country.
More than anything, Beijing’s anachronistic one-party autocracy often becomes the subject of mockery. As a nation that achieved both an economic miracle and political development in a short span of time, Korea may be entitled to tell China about democracy. Given China’s turbulent modern history, the subsequent creation of the Communist Party and its unification of mainland China, the inevitability of the Chinese system ― separating politics from the economy ― may be understood. Nonetheless, more Koreans are urging China to embrace a pluralistic democracy through political reform over the long term.
The scandal also draws particular attention in that it could escalate into a fierce power struggle inside the inner circle in the run-up to China’s planned leadership change later this year. Whether Xi Jinping will succeed Hu Jintao as the top leader of the Chinese Communist Party despite the Bo Xilai event may be a matter of the highest interest with regard to China. The absurdities of today’s China ― for example, money comes with power ― were significant enough to surprise Koreans who have already been accustomed to repeated corruption cases here exposed especially near the end of a president’s tenure due to the extent of its severity.
More realistically, Seoul’s relations with Beijing raise the need for Korea to scrutinize the world’s second largest economy. Everyone knows China is the largest trading partner for Korea with one fourth of the latter’s exports going to the country. If the Chinese economy falls into a downturn, its impact on Korea will be enormous.
North Korea is another factor that forces us to pay more attention to the China situation since Beijing is actually the only patron of impoverished Pyongyang. As things stand now, none but China has the political clout to restrain North Korea, which continues to be unpredictable even after the inauguration of Kim Jong-un.
Taking into consideration the fact that Bo had a number of intimate Korean friends, our diplomatic authorities will have the fresh task of finding a new pro-South Korean figure to replace him.