For 2012, this site introduced the thought of Zhiwei Tong (童之伟), one of the most innovative scholars of constitutional law in China. Professor Tong has been developing his thought in part in a essay site that was started in 2010. See, Larry Catá Backer, Introducing a New Essay Site on Chinese Law by Zhiwei Tong, Law at the End of the Day, Oct. 16, 2010. Professor Tong is on the faculty of law at East China University of Political Science and Law. He is the Chairman of the Constitution Branch of the Shanghai Law Society and the Vice Chairman of the Constitution Branch of the China Law Society. The Series continues.
The Zhiwei Tong (童之伟) Series focuses on translating some of Professor Tong's work on issues of criminal law and justice in China, matters that touch on core constitutional issues. Each of the posting will include an English translation from the original Chinese, the Chinese original and a link to the original essay site. Many of the essays will include annotations that may also be of interest. I hope those of you who are interested in Chinese legal issues will find these materials, hard to get in English, of use. I am grateful to my research assistants, YiYang Cao, Bo Wang, and Zhichao Yi for their able work in translating these essays.
For this contribution to the Zhiwei Tong (童之伟) Series /(Part XXXI) we translate (via Bo Wang):
--Totalitarian Personality and Bo Xilai's Political Failure (Aug. 24, 2013).
(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)
Totalitarian Personality and Bo Xilai’s Political FailureTong Zhiwei 08-24-2013
I read the report of Bo Xilai’s trial in detail. Although this trial hasn’t been fully completed yet, two of the accusations seem to be confirmed based on the current laws and facts. As for accusation of misfeasance, I’m pretty sure that even without murder case of Ms. Gu Kailai, it is easy for accuser to get criminal evidence in Bo’s “Red Culture Movement and Crackdown on Organized Crime”. From a member of the Party Political Bureau of to being into jail, obviously this is a big failure in his life.
Born in a revolutionary pioneer’s family, with a good personal image, good at public speaking and social activities, he has very perfect experience in political life which could lead him to a first-class statesman. How can a great person like him become a prisoner from top leadership? The reasons are worth pondering. When talking about this, many people tend to find causal issues from institutional and social perspectives, which definitely make sense to a large degree. Nonetheless, I also think his tragic consequence has a lot to do with his personality. Specifically in Bo’s case, the most important internal cause is probably his totalitarian personality.
By the way, in the past the circle of social psychology talks more about authoritarian personality, rather than totalitarian personality. There is association and distinction between totalitarian personality and authoritarian personality. Totalitarian personality reaches the peak of authoritarian personality and it has paranoid psychological tendency. Totalitarian personality can hardly create any detriment to a society which has tradition of democracy and rule of law. However, in a society lacking of democracy and rule of law, a person with totalitarian personality who control public power may create a lot of dangers the society. Generally, the more power a totalitarian official gets, the greater danger it could make to the society and itself. The previous chairman Mao Zedong in Chinese Communist Party is a typical man with totalitarian personality. Compared to Mao, Bo’s totalitarian personality is actually more prominent. I think, it is his growing totalitarian personality with rising power and status that led to his failure.
From the characteristics of Bo’s personality, Mr. Bo’s failure is inevitable in today’s China, which is embodied in some happenstance, namely the murdering crime by his wife. We might as well take a look at the correlation of Bo’s failure and characteristics of totalitarian personality. One primary characteristic of totalitarian personality is intolerance of democracy, regardless of original meaning or extended meaning of democracy. Therefore, totalitarian personality would never enforce democracy; otherwise it will distort democracy into populism. A typical performance of Bo’s populism is he unconsciously torn the whole society into “people” and “non-people” and did whatever he wanted in the name of “people”. As seen by us, Mr. Bo was praising abstract concept of “people”, but at the same time he abused power and put many innocent citizens into Laojiao, detention, corporal torture, sentences to prisons or even taking away their private property.
A second characteristic of totalitarian personality is contempt for human rights, ignoring the most basic humanitarian requirements. In the movement of Chongqing’s “Crackdown on Organized Crime“, interrogation with corporal torture has infringed basic human rights which rarely happened in history. Bo’s connivance of human rights abuses could hardly happen in modern times after Reform and Open policy. The bad situations under his governance could not happen in most parts of China even in Cultural Revolution period.
The third characteristic of totalitarian personality is intolerance of different opinion or dissents. We’ve noticed that when Bo was in power in Chongqing, no one could challenge him or make any specific comments openly on his “Red Culture Movement and Crackdown on Organized Crimes”, otherwise, they might be put into jail or Laojiao. At that time in Chongqing, the freedom of public criticism on governmental organs or officials, which has been confirmed by the constitution, was completely deprived off by Mr. Bo and his subordinates.
The fourth characteristic of totalitarian personality is putting political struggle as its first priority. From a micro perspective, there is political struggle with colleagues, superiors; from a macro perspective, there is provoked political struggle between officials and civilians, also the rich and poor. Bo is well-known for his political struggle. When he was mayor, he did it with municipal party secretary; when he was governor he did it with provincial party secretary; when he became minister, he was also said to have political struggle with his direct superiors. The most terrible issue happened when he has taken power in Chongqing and become a member in the political bureau of the party. His words almost claimed Chongqing under former administration had been “evil old society” and further he indirectly set up new system, which was going against the central government. As for his taking advantages of people’s hostile sentiment to government and rich class, there are numerous evidences on this. As a matter of fact, what Bo has said and done in Chongqing was just new forms of modern mass class struggle.
The fifth characteristic of totalitarian personality is being keen on power implementation based on personal will. Totalitarian personality’s trump card is making people be occupied all day with its wills and ideas. Bo’s “Red Culture Movement” is a typical case in this regard. The implementation of his power will could be found in the every corner of social life, where he could exert influence through administrative system. The grown trees on the roads, so called “classical books to read” and places of press photographers in meeting all subject to his personal wills.
The sixth characteristic of totalitarian personality is excluding competitors to extreme by all means while promoting supportive followers unconditionally. The way Mr. Bo treated Jiang Weiping looked different from that how he did to Li Qiang and Wang Lijun. Actually it was the same rule used by Bo. Because of this, people who made comments or critiques on his “Red Culture Movement and Crackdown on Organized Crime” had worried a lot about the possibility of his taking power. Therefore, these people never hesitated to fight with him, even with sacrifice of their life. Bo was not wise enough and he antagonized some people who were in the middle to turn to his enemies. How can he make great achievement in his political life!
The seventh characteristic of totalitarian personality is anti-rule of law. Totalitarian governmental officials take advantages of any existing rules based on their own needs and they don’t respect the role of constitution and laws. I’m very familiar with how Mr. Bo behaved in other municipalities and provinces. But what he did in Chongqing was far beyond issues whether he was in compliance of law. He just transplanted his “precious experience” into Chongqing, distaining the rule of law. He is the most devastating local official since Reform and Open policy who has in long term damaged China’s rule of law.
The eighth characteristic of totalitarian personality is uncontrollable desire to power, especially the supreme power. In order to get power, officials of this personality tend to be busy all day and deviate from common sense and normal rules. In this regard, what Bo has done in Chongqing in those years has demonstrated quite well. Some of his behaviors could be considered madness, which were definitely not good for his goals in reality. His crazy words and behaviors were actually driven by his totalitarian personality, which were manifestation of his uncontrollable mentality.
The ninth totalitarian personality characteristics is losing bottom line in pursuit of power, which is the most terrifying to people. For example, people who have paid attention to the situations in Chongqing know the cases. Many offenders were actually not supposed to be sentenced to death according to laws. But in his movement “Crackdown on Organized Crime”, these people were forced to death penalty and immediate execution with Bo’s extrajudicial efforts, which was beyond the law regulations. The most precious thing is life. In order to save life, extrajudicial effort may be applicable, however the extrajudicial effort can never applied to kill people’s life. This is the highest morality of humanitarianism, but Mr. Bo unexpectedly has violated this principle.
The last characteristic of totalitarian personality is grandiose political ideology. Mr. Shi Fei’s article “Actor Bo Xilai” provides perfect demonstration of Bo’s behavior regarding to this characteristic and I don’t need to say too much here. His extraordinary grandiose mentality has developed to extreme and totally ignored surrounding people’s feeling, which incurred a lot of waste of manpower and money.
The ten characteristics of totalitarian personality, embodied by Mr. Bo Xilai should teach a good lesson for all Chinese politicians. In addition to this, I often think people with totalitarian personality and family backgrounds like Mr. Bo actually are not suitable to be government officials in modern China. If Mr. Bo devotes himself to academics or business, he might have a glorious life. Unfortunately, the culture of pursuit of government officials has deep roots in China, and “grandiose political mentality” induced him to embark on “politics career”, where he can never turn back.