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Empty Promises

Author: Jerome A. Cohen, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia Studies
August 27, 2013
South China Morning Post


In order to establish a rule of law worthy of the country, China will require leaders endowed with vision, wisdom and boldness. Several decades of economic, social and legal development have increased popular demand for a legal system that is fair, impartial and reasonably free of politics and corruption. What has been lacking is leadership.

I once thought that Bo Xilai , because of the intelligence, openness to the world and charisma that marked his pre-Chongqing career, might become such a leader. If the political opportunism that he displayed inembracing Maoist propaganda and tactics in Chongqing had succeeded in propelling him into high national office, I thought that the same opportunism might then motivate him towards the other direction – to assure himself a role in history by helping to bring due process of law, judicial independence and fair trials to one-fifth of humanity. Bo's high-rolling Maoist gambit failed. Yet history works in strange ways.

Few familiar with Bo's record as Chongqing's Communist Party boss would have predicted that his final contribution to Chinese politics would be to strengthen reformers struggling to lead the country towards the rule of law. Bo's five years in Chongqing were an unmitigated disaster for criminal justice.

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