Today’s China Readings August 10, 2012

"Sinocism is the Presidential Daily Brief for China hands"- Evan Osnos, New Yorker Correspondent and National Book Award Winner

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Gu Kailai did get her day in court, or at least eight hours. The trial is over and now we await the announcement of the verdict. In Court observer: Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, confessed to murder of Briton in China The Washington Post’s Keith Richburg provides the most detailed report of the crime and the courtroom proceedings I have seen. Richburg writes that:

According to the person inside the courtroom, prosecutors described how on Nov. 10 Heywood sent an e-mail to Bo and Gu’s only son, Bo Guagua, who was attending Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The prosecution said Heywood was upset over a property development deal that went bust and demanded that Bo Guagua, who introduced him to the project, send him 10 percent of the promised returns, about 13 million British pounds ($20 million), according to this account.

A copy of Heywood’s purported e-mail, written in English, was displayed in court with a Chinese translation, the person attending the trial said. According to the Chinese translation, Heywood supposedly warned Bo Guagua that if he did not pay the money, “you will be destroyed.” There was no verification that Heywood actually wrote the e-mail…

Almost all the evidence presented in the court came in the form of written testimony that was read aloud. The only witness to testify in person was a scientist from China’s Ministry of Public Security — seen on CCTV in a short-sleeved white shirt and red necktie with eyeglasses — who said he tested Heywood’s blood in April. That test confirmed the presence of poison, the observer said.

As for the sentencing of Gu, Geremie Barme of the Australian Centre for China and the World told Australia’s ABC News that:

The official line determined in the Maoist era remains if you confess your crimes you can be dealt with leniently. She seems to have confessed and thrown herself on the mercy, if one can use such a word, mercy of the Chinese court system because of the very nature of the case she may well be let off although you would think that just because of the notoriety of what’s happened, the international influence and also the internal Chinese political influence she would be dealt with very swiftly and savagely.

It will be a barometer to an extent for us to tell what’s going on in … if she’s not dealt with severely and given a bullet in the back of the head or an injection we’ll know the Chinese Politburo and the political and legal system are so tenderly and carefully balanced they dare not move any particular direction and will compromise rather than actually doing away with this troublesome person.

The South China Morning Post reports today that Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai’s former police chief and the man whose flight to the US Consulate in Chengdu was the proximate trigger for Gu’s arrest and Bo’s fall, will go on trial next week in Chengdu.

Yesterday’s Sinocism commentary directed readers to The Bo Xilai Affair in Central Leadership Politics, by the Hoover Institution’s Alice Miller. Dr. Miller was my graduate school advisor so I am generally partial to her view of Chinese elite politics. Today the Wall Street Journal published an abridged version of Miller’s essay. I still recommend reading the original (it is not that long), as Miller also does a good job casting doubt on the Financial Times report of the downfall of Zhou Yongkang and takes issue with the widely accepted but oversimplified “Princelings vs. Communist Youth League” construct for analyzing Chinese elite politics. Joseph Fewsmith’s Bo Xilai and Reform: What Will Be the Impact of His Removal?, in the same issue of the Chinese Leadership Monitor, also questions the “Princelings vs. Communist Youth League” framework.

Chinese economic data released Thursday showed continued weakness. FT Alphaville writes that the China data inspires hope, disappointment… and a dilemma while the more bearish now say China has hit a hard landing. Has it?

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Thanks for reading. The best way to see this daily post is to subscribe by email, especially if you are in China, as Sinocism is still blocked here. You can also follow me on @niubi or Sina Weibo @billbishop.

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