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As both China and the U.S. go through their respective transitions of power in November, 2012, an interesting observation on political power struggles between the two countries:

In the U.S., the kind of power struggle between the left and the right, the liberal democrats and conservative republicans is still more or less along ideological lines. It is often manifested during campaigns for political office, and in policies implemented by the eventual elected executive and legislative officials at various levels.

In China, the kind of power struggles, (infightings among various individuals and factions within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) if you will), is more or less about individual – and to some extent factious – interests under the disguise of ideology.

In another word, while both the Maoist left and Reformative right argue along ideological lines, the people in each camp merely use ideological arguments for their own respective interests. While the same can be said of American politicians, the situation in China is much more pronounced. For the losing side of the power struggle, a political fiasco can mean much more than losing the opportunity to be in a powerful official position such as the national presidency, secretary of Communist Party, Premiership, or the chairman of the military commission. It can also mean imprisonment or even death, as in the case of the downfall of Bo Xilai.

The downfall of Bo Xilai, while an unexpected event in itself, nonetheless tilted the balance of power to the reformative right. And Bo is very likely to lose everything he had built over the years, his political ambition shattered, his entire family falling apart, and he will likely face “severe punishment” after the 18th National Communist Party Congress is concluded, in which transfer of power will take place.

For the Chinese politicians, there is much more at stake when losing a political fight. And, while there are genuine believers of their ideologies in each camp, for the most prominent politicians, it is so much more about individual interests than ideology alone. Even for Bo, some have cogently argued, he does not necessarily believe in the extreme Maoist Left ideologies, he simply invoked the ideologies to advance his own political ambitions and interests.

Which one is more preferred? Perhaps the representative democratic system in which candidates are kept accountable by the people whom he will eventually govern and serve. As for the Chinese system, it can be said that it definitely lacks transparency and those 7-9 people that would eventually serve in the Politburo Standing Committee is a mere result of power struggles of personal and factious interests, rather than that of people’s choice.

In that regard, “The People’s Republic of China” is only a misnomer.

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