Former Chongqing Party Chief Bo Xilai, photographed here in 2010, likely faces a lengthy prison sentence after being indicted today. (Jason Lee/Reuters)
The penny has dropped for Bo Xilai. The one-time Chongqing Party Secretary, held in limbo since March 2012, was indicted today for bribery, corruption, and abuse of power stemming from his previous stint as the top official in Dalian. Bo's long-awaited trial will mark the culmination of China's most serious political scandal in a generation, one that began with the poisoning death of British businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing in November 2011.
To tease out some of the implications of the Bo Xilai issue, I spoke to Jacques DeLisle, a law professor and Director at the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. The following is a transcript of our remarks, edited for length and clarity.
Now that Bo Xilai has been indicted, when will his trial be held?
There's been a lot of speculation about that already, and of course nobody knows for sure. But I suspect the trial won't be too far into the future because the government has sat on this issue for so long. It's hard to imagine what the motivation would be for indicting him and then letting the indictment sit for a long time.
Another reason that the trial will likely happen sooner rather than later is the arrival of two major events on the Chinese political calendar. The first is the traditional summer retreat of the Communist Party elite to Beidaihe, a beach resort near Beijing, where the country's top leaders go to set the agenda for the coming year. The second is the coming third plenum of the National People's Congress early this fall, an event where policies will be set. This time, the third plenum will be particularly important because it comes after the installation of a new president [Xi Jinping], something that happens in China only once every 10 years.
So is there any chance that Bo will be acquitted?
(Laughs) You'd have to get really, really big odds to cover that bet. If he were acquitted it'd be shocking -- totally out of the ordinary. But what's interesting to me is what they're charging him with.
Why is that?
Well, the main focus of the Bo Xilai controversy was what he did in his last post as the Party Secretary of Chongqing, including the unpardonable sin of campaigning publicly for a spot in the Standing Committee of the Politburo [China's highes decision-making body]. China has a fairly secretive and managed successor process, but Bo tried to subvert this by invoking his own personal standing and his ability to cultivate grass-roots support. That was a huge infraction on his part.
If you look more broadly at what the public saw in Bo, you see someone who ran a brutal dictatorship in Chongqing. There was some genuine support for his anti-crime crackdown, of course, but its brutality, and disregard of legal restrictions and procedures, were problematic. Bo tried to shake down local business interests in the city, and angered China's "rule of law" types by going after a defense lawyer named Li Zhuang, who was defending someone caught up in one of Bo's "anti-mafia" cases.
But the indictment, insofar as we know, just has to do with the crimes of embezzlement and abuse of power that focused on his earlier tenure as the Party Secretary of Dalian, in northeastern China, and has nothing to do with what he did in Chongqing.
Why would Beijing handle it this way? Why not go after him for his Chongqing crimes, and, if his Dalian crimes merited arrest, why didn't they arrest him years ago?
Almost every official at Bo's level in China has skeletons in the closet, so if they had gone after him when he was running Dalian -- his crimes there were not uncommon for Chinese leaders -- then you'd give the impression that members of the elite would be vulnerable to criminal prosecution.
So had the Wang Lijun incident [the Police Chief who fled to the U.S. Embassy in February 2012] not occurred in Chongqing, would Bo have even run into trouble?
The Wang Lijun case made it easy to go after Bo; there's something terribly embarrassing when your top aide tries to defect to the United States and then hands over a bunch of information in the process. And there were other revelations that hurt him, such as tapping the phones of [former President] Hu Jintao when he was visiting Chongqing.
But in general, Bo was playing a high-stakes, high-risk game. He was going outside the usual channels in a bid for higher office by cultivating a populist power base, and that's just a big no-no in Chinese politics. He also stood for a particular model of governance that was at odds with the broadly reformist bloc that runs the country. Bo's vision of Chongqing was in having the state play a big role and to avoid any big market reforms, and he was a good deal more contemptuous and dismissive of "rule of law" values than even the mainstream elite -- which is saying something. His populist, almost neo-Maoist approach was in tension with the reformist, market-oriented model favored by the likes of [former Guangdong Party Chief and current Vice Premier] Wang Yang.
Bo Xilai attracted genuine grassroots support as Chongqing's boss. Will they come out to rally during his trial?
A few years ago this would have been totally unthinkable in China, but with the rise in protests recently people do seem to feel more free to take to the streets. That said, most of the protesters seem more concerned with local economic or environmental issues than anything broadly political.
So will we see a lot of people out in the streets for Bo Xilai? I doubt it. It'd be a risky thing to do, I think, going out and expressing support for someone accused of doing some pretty terrible things. But what's interesting in this: the trial is being held not in Chongqing or Dalian but in Jinan, capital of Shandong Province, which is an area with which Bo has no ties. This might suggest some concern to avoid some embarrassing, if not actually threatening, protests.
What will Bo's sentence be?
I'd guess it'll be somewhere been many years and a suspended death sentence, the latter of which in China usually means life in prison. The odds of him being executed is practically nil -- it just doesn't happen to top leaders in China, not to [Mao Zedong's last wife and Gang of Four member] Jiang Qing, nor people nearer to Bo like his wife Gu Kailai, who was convicted in the murder of Neil Heywood. Chen Liangyu, the Shanghai Party Chief convicted for corruption in 2008, is probably the closest comparison, and he didn't even get a suspended death sentence.
What lesson does Bo's case teach existing Chinese officials?
I don't think it teaches them anything they don't already know. That is to say -- if you engage in corrupt or abusive behavior in these high positions (Party secretary, provincial governor, etc.) you might end up with your political enemies wanting to take your down. Lots of people of course get away with a lot of stuff -- but even for people like Bo in the upper tier of elite, there is that risk of getting caught.
Orr: “Sometimes a thing happens. Splits your life. There’s a before and after. I got like five of them at this point.”
This was Frank offering a pep talk to the son of his murdered former henchman Stan in tonight’s episode. (More on this in a moment.) But it’s also a line that captures this season of True Detective so perfectly that it almost seems like a form of subliminal self-critique.
Remember when Ray got shot in episode two and appeared to be dead but came back with a renewed sense of purpose and stopped drinking. No? That’s okay. Neither does the show: It was essentially forgotten after the subsequent episode. Remember when half a dozen (or more) Vinci cops were killed in a bloody shootout along with dozen(s?) of civilians? No? Fine: True Detective’s left that behind, too. Unless I missed it, there was not a single mention of this nationally historic bloodbath tonight.
A controversial treatment shows promise, especially for victims of trauma.
It’s straight out of a cartoon about hypnosis: A black-cloaked charlatan swings a pendulum in front of a patient, who dutifully watches and ping-pongs his eyes in turn. (This might be chased with the intonation, “You are getting sleeeeeepy...”)
Unlike most stereotypical images of mind alteration—“Psychiatric help, 5 cents” anyone?—this one is real. An obscure type of therapy known as EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is gaining ground as a potential treatment for people who have experienced severe forms of trauma.
Here’s the idea: The person is told to focus on the troubling image or negative thought while simultaneously moving his or her eyes back and forth. To prompt this, the therapist might move his fingers from side to side, or he might use a tapping or waving of a wand. The patient is told to let her mind go blank and notice whatever sensations might come to mind. These steps are repeated throughout the session.
Companies that overvalue alpha-male behavior need to change—both to retain female talent and for the bottom line.
When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, the research on its economic benefits is clear: Equality can boost profits and enhance reputation. And then there’s also the fact that it’s more fair. But the progress of women in the workplace is so far inadequate: Women are woefully underrepresented in executive positions, the pay gap persists, and the motherhood penalty is very real.
Barbara Annis is the founder of the Gender Intelligence Group, a consultancy that works with executives at major firms (including Deloitte, American Express, BMO Financial Group, and eBay) to create strategies to transform their work cultures into ones that are friendly to both men and women.
I recently spoke with Annis about her work and the challenges to achieving gender parity. The following transcript of our conversation has been edited for clarity.
Has the Obama administration’s pursuit of new beginnings blinded it to enduring enmities?
“The president said many times he’s willing to step out of the rut of history.” In this way Ben Rhodes of the White House, who over the years has broken new ground in the grandiosity of presidential apologetics, described the courage of Barack Obama in concluding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Islamic Republic of Iran, otherwise known as the Iran deal. Once again Rhodes has, perhaps inadvertently, exposed the president’s premises more clearly than the president likes to do. The rut of history: It is a phrase worth pondering. It expresses a deep scorn for the past, a zeal for newness and rupture, an arrogance about old struggles and old accomplishments, a hastiness with inherited precedents and circumstances, a superstition about the magical powers of the present. It expresses also a generational view of history, which, like the view of history in terms of decades and centuries, is one of the shallowest views of all.
How a radical epilepsy treatment in the early 20th century paved the way for modern-day understandings of perception, consciousness, and the self
In 1939, a group of 10 people between the ages of 10 and 43, all with epilepsy, traveled to the University of Rochester Medical Center, where they would become the first people to undergo a radical new surgery.
The patients were there because they all struggled with violent and uncontrollable seizures. The procedure they were about to have was untested on humans, but they were desperate—none of the standard drug therapies for seizures had worked.
Between February and May of 1939, their surgeon William Van Wagenen, Rochester’s chief of neurosurgery, opened up each patient’s skull and cut through the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects the left hemisphere to the right and is responsible for the transfer of information between them. It was a dramatic move: By slicing through the bundle of neurons connecting the two hemispheres, Van Wagenen was cutting the left half of the brain away from the right, halting all communication between the two.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Educators seldom have enough time to do their business. What’s that doing to the state of learning?
It’s common knowledge that teachers today are stressed, that they feel underappreciated and disrespected, and disillusioned. It’s no wonder they’re ditching the classroom at such high rates—to the point where states from Indiana to Arizona to Kansas are dealing with teacher shortages. Meanwhile, the number of American students who go into teaching is steadily dropping.
A recent survey conducted jointly by the American Federation of Teachers and Badass Teachers Association asked educators about the quality of their worklife, and it got some pretty harrowing feedback. Just 15 percent of the 30,000 respondents, for example, strongly agreed that they’re enthusiastic about the profession. Compare that to the roughly 90 percent percent who strongly agreed that they were enthusiastic about it when they started their career, and it’s clear that something has changed about schools that’s pushing them away. Roughly three in four respondents said they “often” feel stressed by their jobs.
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.
Exceptional nonfiction stories from 2014 that are still worth encountering today
Each year, I keep a running list of exceptional nonfiction that I encounter as I publish The Best ofJournalism, an email newsletter that I send out once or twice a week. This is my annual attempt to bring some of those stories to a wider audience. I could not read or note every worthy article that was published last calendar year and I haven't included any paywalled articles or anything published at The Atlantic. But everything that follows is worthy of wider attention and engagement.
Millions of workers now go it alone—who will provide them with basic labor protections?
When Sara Horowitz founded the Freelancers Union in 1995, there was already evidence that the structure of people's work lives was changing.
Publishing and media jobs had started to move to more project-based work. Horowitz, a union organizer and labor lawyer by training, assumed that other industries would follow. As an expert in labor unions, she thought “it was really important to start thinking about how people [can] come together” to change laws and public policy, so that freelancers can obtain job-related “benefits—and community.”
Today, the Brooklyn-based Freelancers Union boasts nearly 300,000 members, having quadrupled in numbers in just seven years. Freelancers in the union include technology consultants, copywriters, web designers, visual artists, business-development consultants, journalists, and professional coaches. They live all over the country, with concentrations in New York, New Jersey, and California.