The first question is about the sentence to Gu Kailai. “Death sentence with two years’ reprieve” - what does it mean?
It’s not real death sentence, it’s suspended death sentence. So it means that after two years’ imprisonment Gu Kailai sentence maybe commuted to life imprisonment or even less serious punishment. This commuting is quite possible for so-called “good behavior”. There is a list of points of this good behavior. It is possible that sentence could be not that serious.
Bo Xilai wasn’t even mentioned during the trial. And there is not so much information about his whereabouts, about his fate. Do you think there will be some party decision on Bo Xilai before the Party Congress starts in autumn?
I don’t think that any decision could be taken before the Party Congress because everything is settled already. I think that he could avoid the serious punishment for any help to the death of foreigner. I think that the official leaders of the Party should take in consideration what he has done in the city of Chongqing against organized crime and so on. Bo Xilai has a lot of supporters amongst Party members and even in Party leadership. I think he may be forgiven for doing some serious crimes, but for breaking Party discipline he could be punished, not very seriously.
Party leaders in Chinese politics in general continue to be involved in business, they still keep their bank accounts offshores and send their children to prestigious universities. Do you think this will remain the same after the 18th Party Congress?
No, it is not so simple. I think that there’s very strong opposition to the business of Party leaders. For instance, there’s such person as Wang Yang, he’s the leader of Southern province Guangdong and he’s very strongly against Party corruption and so on. And this is very serious problem to let it go just as it went before. I think that some serious measures could be taken to stop – to some extent, of course – the corruption in higher levels of Party leaders and their relatives.
And it even can be discussed during the Party Congress?
Yes, of course. In some way, maybe not very strictly, but it could be discussed and it should be discussed.
So, the general feeling is that this incident is over that the sentence was announced, so the stability in the country is guaranteed now. Is it so?
It’s not completely guaranteed because there’re different groups and different clans within the Party. They are struggling for influence. We can’t say that everything is settled, that everything is stable and so on. It’s question of next 5 or 10 years.
Certain reports were saying that the lady on the trial was not Gu Kailai herself, but her imposter. Do you think that that could really be so?
No, I think it was Gu Kailai.
But there’re also certain voices in China that seem to be quite unhappy about the trial. For instance, the New York Times is quoting He Weifang who is a law professor at Beijing University. He said that “this was a satire of justice” and he also said that “the trial was more about covering up rather than revealing was happened.”
It’s just voices of opposition, not the voices of Party leadership. I don’t think it could influence the future of Party decision.
Do I get it right that you believe that the trial was mostly successful and that it will have serious political implications?
I don’t think the very trial would have any implication on the future. But the main thing is Party decision.
But then, what was the meaning of the trial?
The meaning of the trial to the public is that everybody is equal before the law. But I don’t think that it’s so. But it was the sense of the trial.
But then what could be the real sense of the trial? Was it just a large fullstop on the career of Bo Xilai?
Oh, yes. It stopped his career. It diminished the influence of those who supported or support Bo Xilai. And it changed the situation with influence of different Party clans and so on.
But what was his major mistake? How do you see that?
The major mistake is first of all his ties with criminals. It’s not only his own mistake. It’s the mistake of majority Communist Party leaders. This mistake I don’t think could be improved in nearest future.
But what was the misstep that he actually committed? Why? He used to be one of the team. How can people start to get rid of him?
I think the major cleavage in the Party – is the cleavage between the leftist who support Bo Xilai and the so-called “rightists” or liberals whose main representative is Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister. The main mistake of Bo Xilai was that he doesn’t take into consideration the influence of personally Wen Jiabao and maybe Hu Jintao. Both of them didn’t visit him for years when he was ruling Chongqing.
But now, from the point of view of layperson like me, if the “rightist” group has managed to quell Bo Xilai – but we all know that Chinese military couldn’t be described as “rightist” – does that mean that China is heading for some sort of difficult times in its leadership? Is the rift between the Party officials and military leadership widening?
It is not an easy question, you know. I’ve read many articles written by military men and they are opposing not only social politics or economic politics of Wen Jiabao and liberals, but also idea that China could be conscious in its foreign policy and that it shouldn’t oppose the hegemony of the USA. They say that the times of such a policy are over. And just now China should be more arrogant to the US, - this is the main cleavage between liberals and military.
But on the other hand, the US in recent political moves was actually supporting the stance of the military when they were building up their naval presence in the region with all that heated rhetoric targeting the Chinese government. So, I think it is a two-way process, isn’t it?
In a way – yes. I mean some people in ruling circles in Washington really support military voices in Beijing.
What is your forecast? Do you think that the current period of tensions between the West and China is transitory? Do you think that it’s going perhaps to end soon? Or are we entering the major standoff between China and the West?
You mean the period of opposition is transitory?
No, I just wondered whether the current point, the point at which we are in now, when the rhetoric has become more heated between China and the West, - do you think these tensions might eventually subside in coming months or years? Or is it there to stay for longer time?
The contradictions are substantial. It couldn’t be overcome in months or years, it’s permanent.
So, how is China going to handle this situation in that case if liberals are coming to power?
I couldn’t exclude the serious struggle between the US and China, and even the war.