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China: Real World vs Virtual World

Beijing seems as normal as ever. Widespread rumours disseminated by Chinese microblogs about a tussle for power and even an attempted coup after the March 15,2012, sacking of Bo Xilai , an informal, easily accessible and populist party functionary from his post of Party chief of Southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality, have proved false.

2. According to some of these rumours, Bo enjoyed the support of Zhou Yongkang, the ninth-ranking member of the Standing Committee of the Politbureau of the Communist Party of China, who has been the head of the Party’s powerful Political and Legal Affairs Committee, which oversees police and judicial matters, since 2007.

3.These rumours even alleged that there was an attempted coup by elements in the Ministry of Public Security associated with Zhou Yongkang and speculated that Zhou might also be on the way out.

4.These rumours spread by China’s 300 million strong Netizen community have proved false. Things have been normal in Beijing. President Hu Jintao arrived in Seoul on the afternoon of March 25 to attend the nuclear security summit and he is going ahead with his plans to visit New Delhi the coming week to attend the BRIC summit and to pay a bilateral visit to Cambodia. The Chinese have not suggested any changes in the programmes of foreign visitors to Beijing. Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to take over from Hu later this year, met former Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio in Beijing, on March 23.

5. Even Zhou, who has been in the centre of these rumours, has been visible and functioning normally. The State-owned Xinhua news agency disseminated on March 22, a letter reported to have been written by Zhou to a conference of police and public security officials stressing the importance of better interactions between law enforcement officials and the public in order to improve their public image.

6. In the meanwhile, Radio Free Asia, funded by the US State Department, has disseminated a report that over 3000 police and public security officials from the provinces have been called to Beijing to attend a re-training programme starting on March 26. The significance of this retraining programme is not clear. Is this connected to the removal of Bo, whose No 2 and police chief, had allegedly made an unsuccessful attempt to seek asylum in the US Consulate in Chengdu?

7. While the rumours have proved to be false, the fact that the rumours spread so fast and so widely should be a matter of concern to the Chinese leaders. This shows that anti-State and anti-Government elements have a capability for causing instability through orchestrated disinformation through the Net.

8. China’s real world seems to be normal, but not its virtual world which is being skilfully used by anti-State elements to create confusion. ( 25-3-12)

( The writer, Mr.B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )

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