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Chinese Scholars: The Chongqing Model Has Collapsed

[Editor’s Note: Since Wang Lijun went to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, seeking political asylum and Bo Xilai was removed as Chongqing’s top leader, the Chinese people have had widespread discussions about Bo’s style of government, which has come to be called the “Chongqing Model.” The general characteristics of the “Chongqing Model” include heavy borrowing to stimulate economic growth, the ideology of returning to the “left,” and the political movement that Bo initiated. Bo Xilai pushed the “Chongqing Model” to the center of China’s political stage using his high-profile “singing the red” campaign, where people were organized to sing songs ythat were popular in the Mao Zedong era in praise of the Communist Party, and the “striking the black” campaign in which the Chongqing authorities bypassed the regular legal system claiming they were eradicating triads in Chongqing.

Voice of America (VOA) reported that, in recent discussions, many Chinese scholars have expressed their disapproval of the “Chongqing Model.” The following is the translation of the VOA article.] [1]

Now that Bo Xilai, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) high-ranking official, who vigorously championed the “singing the red, striking the black” movement in the southwest Chinese city of Chongqing, was dismissed, what will happen to the “Chongqing Model?” Recently some scholars stated in their articles that this model, borrowing future money to spend today and returning to a Cultural Revolution-style political movement, can no longer stand.

In his recent blog on the causes and potential developments of the Chongqing event, Zhang Ming, Professor of Politics at Renmin University in Beijing, mentioned two weaknesses in the “Chongqing Model.” First, the model spends future money today; second, this model leads to (political) tension inside and outside the CCP system.

Zhang Ming: The “Chongqing Model” Has Weaknesses

Zhong stated, “When the ‘Chongqing Model’ tried to cleanse inside, it sought after enemies within; outside its circle, it also created enemies. Promoting this Mao-type political movement all over China will make many CCP members, who suffered during the Culture Revolution, very nervous.”

Zhang thinks it is inevitable that the “Chongqing Model” will run into problems due to these two weak areas: either it will be dragged down economically or have problems with internal members.

Actually disputes over Chongqing’s economic model have been going on for a long time. A recent article published on Investor Journal quoted Chinese economist Mao Yushi’s doubts about the Chongqing model: Where do the assets that are distributed come from when there is no production?

Chongqing Model’s Advanced Spending Has Long Been Disputed

The article also quoted Liu Haiying, an international hedge fund manager, and the Chief Investment Officer of Guangsheng Asset Investment Management Center. Liu expressed the opinion, “If (we) must define the economic development in Chongqing as an economic model, it is a government spending-fueled economy with real estate and financial leverage under soft fiscal constraints.”

Liu stated that, in the short term, this model appears to be good, but may not be good in the long term because debts need to be paid back.

The article quoted this international hedge fund manager’s analysis that the Chongqing government’s total debt may be as much as 500 billion yuan (US$80 billion). Considering the government collects only 148 billion yuan annually, the sustainability of its debt (being able to carry such a large amount of debt) is worrisome.

Chongqing’s Debt Might Reach 500 Billion Yuan

Chinese modern historian Zhang Lifan also thought the “Chongqing Model” was not sustainable economically. It borrows future money to spend today. Although nowadays it may keep the system running by issuing new debt, that will not last long.

Besides the Economic Aspect, the “Chongqing Model” Is Untenable Politically

The political significance of the “Chongqing Model” is the “striking the black.” Zhang Lifan thought this was similar to the CCP’s movements in the 1950s – using “red cells” to replace the former “gray areas.” (Editor’s note: letting the government take assets from wealthy people who were found to be at fault.)

He told VOA: “Politically, the ‘Chongqing Model’ can no longer stand. It is not based on democracy, but on dictatorship. This model’s formation depends on means outside of the law and on illegal means.”

Chongqing’s “Striking the Black” Political Model

After the dismissals of Bo Xilai and his “striking the black” general, Wang Lijun, many injustices that occurred during this “movement” came to the surface.

The New York Times published an article on March 26, 2012, exposing that, when Wang Lijun was the head of Chongqing’s Public Security Bureau, some businessmen who were arrested and sentenced to death were tortured during interrogation. [2] New York Times Online also published a video of a construction businessman who was charged with murder. He talked about how he was secretly locked up and tortured. This businessman, who claimed he was innocent, was found guilty and executed in July 2010.

The article also mentioned the cases of Li Zhuang’s (a lawyer accused of inciting his client to fake testimony) and Li Jun’s (a businessman who lost his US$711 million conglomerate and fled the country). It quoted a law professor from Beijing University, He Weifang, who commented on Li Zhuang’s case, “The case dealt a blow and sets China’s legal reform back 30 years.”

This jurist said in one of his blogs that he “thinks that the reason that the second phase of Li Zhuang’s case could not proceed and ended with the Procuratorate’s withdrawal from the case was that China’s legal community clearly opposed Chongqing’s ‘striking the black” campaign. Many legal experts published articles with clear arguments and solid evidence (to oppose the campaign).”

He Weifang: A Large Amount of Work Will Be Necessary to Correct the Chongqing Cases

When talking about the Li Zhuang Case with VOA, He Weifang said that Li Zhuang who was put in prison for defending “black” targets (and was released on June 11, 2011), has recently been receiving requests from people to appeal their cases.

He Weifang said: “It seems there are many cases (that need to be corrected). Some innocent people were sentenced. Some who should not have received the death penalty were executed. The amount of corrective work will not be small.”

This law professor thinks that the authorities need to change the overall mentality in the area of law enforcement and judicial execution, as those in the field have been disregarding the rule of law and ignoring legal procedures for the past two years. The government is now likely to process (the correction for) these cases under the existing legal structure.

He Weifang said the “striking the black” campaign carried a strong political overtone. Many problems have clear legal boundaries. Therefore, he believed that the authorities have a strong desire to handle these cases; otherwise they can’t give the public a reasonable explanation.

Zhang Lifan: There May Be Obstacles to Cleaning up the “Chongqing Model”

Historian Zhang Lifan observed that, if the CCP could start with Chongqing, which just went through a small “Cultural Revolution,” by redressing these trumped-up cases, it could go on to clean up those cases that have accumulated nationwide. However, he suspected that the CCP’s already corrupt judicial system did not have the ability to correct itself.

He said: “Today is different from when the Cultural Revolution ended. At that time everyone was poor, so redressing a case meant just a political redress. Nowadays, there are large economic interests involved, so I think it is very difficult to do so. Also for the (falsely accused) to be vindicated would mean that a group of officials would have to step down, so they would be desperate to stop the process.”

Zhang Lifan agreed that the “Chongqing Model” cannot hold any longer. Zhang Ming also wrote in his blog that, at the moment when Wang Lijun entered the U.S. consulate so dramatically, that internal action meant the “Chongqing Model” was bankrupt.

[1] Voice of America Online, “Scholars on the Collapse of ‘Chongqing Model,’” March 28, 2012.
[2] New York Times, “Crime Crackdown Adds to Scandal Surrounding Former Chinese Official,” March 26, 2012.