Sleepless on Weibo–the climax of Bo Xilai drama draws millions

April 11, 2012Jing Gao17 Comments, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Until last night, Bo Xilai is like Schrodinger’s cat thrown into a dark box with radioactive substance. All Chinese know the political career of Bo, a charismatic politician best known for his campaign of singing red songs and combating triads and a hopeful candidate for China’s top office, is over, but no one knows how ugly it gets inside or if the cat is alive or dead.

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And if it were in the pre-social media era, the dark box would never have been opened. The official announcement of Bo’s demise would be terse and final, leaving the broad masses of populace making wild guesses and unable to make head or tail of it, as was the case in the downfall of Lin Biao (Mao’s protégé), Chen Xitong (Beijing party boss until 1995) or Chen Liangyu (Shanghai party boss from 2002 to 2006).

But last night, Chinese social media sites had a historical moment, when the official explanation they’d been awaiting for two months came, drawing the curtain on the political scandal that so many have been watching with excitement.

Ever since words got around that “There may be an important news to be made on Mr. Bo” yesterday afternoon, the online masses had been feverishly refreshing their Weibo news feed page ever now and then. Weibo user @HX_219: “I am standing by and watching this with the same feeling as when I was expecting Edison Chen’s full collection (of sex photos) back then.”

Eventually, at 11 p.m. sharp, the state-run Xinhua News Agency announced that Bo is dismissed from his position on the Central Committee and Politburo for serious discipline violations, and that his wife, Gu Kailai, is suspected of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood over disputes, a charge alleged by Wang Lijun, Bo’s closest ally in Chongqing, who sought political asylum at the U.S. general consulate in Chengdu on February 6.

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Left: Bo Xilai and his wife, Gu Kailai. Right: The Bo family, including their Oxford- and Harvard-educated son Bo Guagua.

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Neil Heywood, a British businessman, was close to the Bo family before the relationship soured and he died a suspicious death.

To use an American analogy, it would be like the California governor, a presidential candidate, gets sacked after his police chief, who helped him fight a glorious war on organized crimes in the state, divulged to Chinese diplomats his dirty laundry and a murder masterminded by his wife in exchange for protection. The analogy is not exact, as a seat in the 9-member Politburo Standing Committee in a system with no checks or balances is more powerful and therefore more coveted than the U.S. presidency.

The breaking news soon spread like wildfire on Sina Weibo. Two weibo posts published by Sina’s Breaking News citing the announcement has had altogether 180,000 shares in less than 12 hours.

In fact, the announcement contained no new information or discovery. The rumors about infightings between Wang and Bo, the Bo family’s link to corruption and the mysterious death of the British citizen have been flying thick on the web since Wang’s visit to the U.S. consulate – so thick that the government punished Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, two most microblogging services, for housing the rumor mill on March 31.

Rather, the confirmation of all these rumors is a bitter irony, given that just a day ago, CCTV’s 7 p.m. primetime news denounced the online rumor mill vehemently by saying, “Some people can undermine social stability with a mere click of the mouse.” It turns out that the society is itself unstable.

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Weibo user Zhang Xingsheng wrote, “We had already followed the instruction from the higher-up that we’d never believe or spread a rumor. But today, the rumor became the truth! I am puzzled! To believe or not to believe? This is a question!” Many weibo users commented, “In China, rumors are far-seeing predictions.” User @苍井色 quipped, “Rumor is the premature ejaculation of the truth. Truth comes after the erectile dysfunction of a rumor.” Wang Xing, a reporter with Southern Metropolis Daily, said, “Some rumors on the Internet are really abhorrent, (because) they are so trustworthy.”

For all the thrills of Chinese netizens over the grand finale, few think it will lead to any concrete political reform. @五岳散人: “The dust is settled. The situation has stabilized. The transition has been smoothed. The seating order has been arranged. High above, however shaky it gets, we the rabble would have no say. Down here, wrongs and grievances won’t be redressed. That’s the thing about politics here in this country…Or, upon further investigation, you will find that all of them are on the same boat.”

But one thing is certain. Before the advent of social media, the government never owed the people an explanation. Rumor was only disseminated during small table talks, and would begin to drag and then died if it remained unsubstantiated. Today, with tens of millions of Chinese actively use Sina Weibo, a low murmur of political gossip may have already been amplified and heard by thousands before the internet police step in, and it may linger, chipping away at the government’s image. Unless the state shuts down the social media completely, it has got to learn how to deal with the tittle-tattle with openness and tact.

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17 comments to “Sleepless on Weibo–the climax of Bo Xilai drama draws millions”

  1. klg | April 11, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    薄瓜瓜要变成薄瓜孤儿。。。

  2. [...] Implication being, of course, that rumors are sometimes as trustworthy as government-released news. ”Wang Xing, a reporter with Southern Metropolis Daily, said, ‘Some rumors on the Internet are really abhorrent, (because) they are so trustworthy.’” [Ministry of Tofu] [...]

  3. Bingya | April 12, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Good riddance. That man is disgusting and I don’t believe that I am the only one that remembers what he did to his own father.

  4. [...] Ministry of Tofu provided the following analogy to describe the magnitude of this scandal. “It would be like a California governor, a presidential candidate, gets sacked after his police chief, who helped him fight a glorious war on organized crimes in the state, divulged to Chinese diplomats his dirty laundry and a murder masterminded by his wife in exchange for protection.” [...]

  5. [...] Ministry of Tofu provided the following analogy to describe the magnitude of this scandal. “It would be like a California governor, a presidential candidate, gets sacked after his police chief, who helped him fight a glorious war on organized crimes in the state, divulged to Chinese diplomats his dirty laundry and a murder masterminded by his wife in exchange for protection.” [...]

  6. [...] Ministry of Tofu provided the following analogy to describe the magnitude of this scandal. “It would be like a California governor, a presidential candidate, gets sacked after his police chief, who helped him fight a glorious war on organized crimes in the state, divulged to Chinese diplomats his dirty laundry and a murder masterminded by his wife in exchange for protection.” [...]

  7. [...] Ministry of Tofu writes: Weibo user Zhang Xingsheng wrote, “We had already followed the instruction from the higher-up that we’d never believe or spread a rumor. But today, the rumor became the truth! I am puzzled! To believe or not to believe? This is a question! [...]

  8. [...] Ministry of Tofu writes: Weibo user Zhang Xingsheng wrote, “We had already followed the instruction from the higher-up that we’d never believe or spread a rumor. But today, the rumor became the truth! I am puzzled! To believe or not to believe? This is a question! [...]

  9. [...] جنيج جاو، الذي يكتب في مدونة وزارة توفو: يكتب تزان تسينشينج، مستخدم ويبو، “لقد اتبعنا [...]

  10. [...] Ministarstva Tofu piše: Weibo korisnik Zhang Xingsheng je napisao, “Već smo poslušali savjet odozgo da nikada ne smijemo vjerovati glasinama ili ih širiti. Ali danas je glasina postala istina! Zbunjen sam. Vjerovati ili ne, pitanje je sada! [...]

  11. [...] przez ostatnie miesiące, nagle trafiają na okładki wszystkich oficjalnych gazet. Jing Gao z Ministerstwa Tofu, pisze: Użytkownik Weibo, Zhang Xingsheng, napisał, “Wypełniliśmy już polecenie z góry, [...]

  12. [...] Kementrian Tofu menulis: pengguna Weibo Zhang Xingsheng menulis, “Kita sudah mengikuti instruksi dari penguasa atas kita tidak pernah percaya atau menyebarkan rumor. Namun kini, rumor menjadi kenyataan! Saya bingung! Untuk percaya atau tidak percaya? Ini sebuah pertanyaan! [...]

  13. [...] zu finden waren, landen plötzlich auf den Titelseiten aller offiziellen Zeitungen. Jing Gao von Ministry of Tofu schreibt: Weibo-Nutzer Zhang Xingsheng schrieb: „Wir hatten die Anweisungen von ganz oben [...]

  14. [...] As posted before , the Sina Weibo is the Chinese own version of microblogs.  In China ,there are over 550 million microblog users.  The social media enhanced the political discussion,and provided a new kind of ” public sphere” to pursue the truth behind the scene. “But one thing is certain.   Before the advent of social media, the government never owed the people an explanation. […] Today, with tens of millions of Chinese actively use Sina Weibo, a low murmur of political gossip may have already been amplified and heard by thousands before the internet police step in.”  Jing Gao reflects. [...]

  15. [...] elárasztották a netet, hirtelen a hivatalos lapok címoldalára kerülnek. Jing Gao a Ministry of Tofu [en] oldalán posztolta: Zhang Xingsheng Weibo felhasználó írta: „Már elkezdtük követni a [...]

  16. [...] Ministry of Tofu writes: Weibo user Zhang Xingsheng wrote, “We had already followed the instruction from the higher-up that we’d never believe or spread a rumor. But today, the rumor became the truth! I am puzzled! To believe or not to believe? This is a question! [...]

  17. [...] nou, Jing Gao [en] reflexiona: But one thing is certain. Before the advent of social media, the government never [...]

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