So, bye bye Bo Xilai. Tripped up by your wife and a dead Lao Wai.

On the scale of falling from the Party’s graces, the news of Bo Xilai’s ouster and the criminal investigation of his wife and associates ranks somewhere between “Zhao Ziyang getting Fredo Kissed by Deng Xiaoping in 1989″ and “Lin Biao hitting Outer Mongolia at 1000 MPH.” It’s certainly the most spectacular – and public – booting of a high ranking CCP official since 1989.[1] Bo’s naked ambition and high profile all but guaranteed that when he fell it was going to leave more than just a plane-sized divot in the Mongolian turf.

For nearly two months after the “Lin Biao Affair” in September, 1971, the Party was able to keep a lid on the story, knowing how confused people would be to hear the Mao’s closest comrade at arms and chosen successor had in fact tried to betray the Chairman and then died in the act of defecting to the Soviet Union.[2]  By contrast, the Party’s attempts to control the Bo Xilai story over the past few months has been like watching drunk chimps try to make wall art with a bucket of jello and a couple of nail guns.

The problem with rumors is that they’re usually not true.  The problem with rumors in China is that people believe them anyway because most people know that the ‘state media’ is nothing but an enormous firehose of steaming donkey shit. The problem with rumors in China NOW is that wild suppositions which at first glance seemed too crazy to be true turned out to be pretty accurate.

Last week the government made Sina, Baidu, and Tencent pull down their pants, lube up, and swear that they would help guide public opinion and participate in the fight against the spreading of online rumors.  Good luck with that.  At this point Boxun could probably run a photo of Wen Jiabao dressed in a gimp costume dipping chunks of Mao’s corpse in gutter oil hotpot while singing “American Pie”, and people are going to say, “Well, that shit about Wang Lijun was nuts, and look how that turned out. I dunno, this could be true as well…”

Global Times editor Hu Xijin both on Weibo last night and in the paper this morning has been gloating about how this whole mess is really a testament to China’s rule of law.  You see, we foreigners have it all wrong.  We look at the situation and see a high-ranking Party official who ran his own personal fiefdom while torturing his enemies and allowing his wife to take become the Tony Montana of Chongqing.[3]  What we’re missing is the part where…No, I don’t think we’re missing anything here.  That’s pretty much what happened.

It’s not rule of law if everybody’s doing it and you only oust the people who piss on the shoes of the top leadership. It’s not rule of law if every case of corruption is due to a lack of personal virtue on the part of the official with nary a word about the system that allows this kind of venality to flourish. It’s not rule of law if the police chief of a major city has to threaten to defect in order to get the attention of the central government.

As one Weibo user put it:

对胡锡进这条微博,看到两条神吐槽:1、什么屎到了胡老师嘴里都能吃出甜味来 2、主人的飞盘甩得再远,胡老师都能给她叼回来

“Two takes on Hu Xijin’s tweet. 1) Master Hu has a knack for finding the tasty morsels in any turd you stick in his mouth. 2) No matter how far his masters throw the Frisbee, Master Hu will always fetch it back for them.”

Lin Biao’s fall from grace marked the beginning of the end of the Cultural Revolution and, indeed, the Mao era.  It forced too many people to confront the very real possibility that the Party had been jerking them around for years.

People today are already very cynical.  The government’s annoucement of Bo Xilai’s dismissal and the investigation into his family and associates – essentially confirming rumors that for months the censors have been working overtime to squash – just might be one of those moments.

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