Liu Yuan is the son of Liu Shaoqi, the Chinese head of state who was hounded to death during the Cultural Revolution. (Photo/CNS)
PLA general Liu Yuan plotted with fallen Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai and other army officials from the "second red generation" to prevent Xi Jinping from taking over from Hu Jintao as the Chinese Communist Party's secretary general and China's president, according to Hong Kong's Open Magazine.
Bo, perhaps the most prominent member of the second red generation — the descendants of the founding fathers of the PRC who grew up during the turbulent era of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution — is currently being detained for unspecified "serious discipline violations," while his wife Gu Kailai has been arrested on suspicion of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood over a financial dispute, a crime Bo allegedly tried to cover up.
While this is the official explanation that has been given for Bo's downfall, many believe the government had more shocking reasons for ending the career of one of the country's most promising politicians. One widely spread rumor is that Bo had been planning a coup with Zhou Yongkang, his ally on the Politburo Standing Committee, to take down Vice President Xi Jinping. Xi is expected to become president and party general secretary at the upcoming 18th National Congress this fall. Bo's former police chief Wang Lijun, who drew Bo's ire for investigating Gu over Heywood's murder, is said to have provided evidence of this alleged scheme in February when he tried to escape his former mentor by seeking asylum at the US consulate in Chengdu.
The May edition of Open Magazine now alleges that the distinguished general and red second generation leader Liu Yuan was one of the key masterminds of the plot. Liu, the current political commissar of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences of the PLA, is the son of Liu Shaoqi, the former head of state who was regarded as Mao's heir apparent before the Chairman purged him during the Cultural Revolution and saw him hounded to death.
Sources told Open Magazine that Wang's verbal testimony revealed a secret alliance between Bo and Liu to elevate themselves into China's highest echelons of power. Under the scheme, Liu and his comrades would support Bo's entry into the party's Politburo Standing Committee, the country's most powerful ruling body. Once in, Bo would likely replace Zhou as the party's security chief, giving him control over China's police and court system and giving their faction enough power to topple Xi at an opportune moment. If the coup were successful, Bo would be the party's new general secretary and Liu would become his right-hand man as the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, the sources added.
Since these allegations came to light, Liu has been trying to distance himself from Bo, sources said. However, the fact that Liu is not one of the 40 or so people detained by central authorities in relation to Bo's corruption may suggest that he has dodged a bullet.
An alternative explanation offered by sources in Beijing is that Bo was the victim of internecine struggle between the reformist group of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao against the leftist neo-Maoists led by Bo and Liu. It is said that Hu and Wen were frightened that the Bo-led red second generation would pose a threat to Xi and Li Keqiang, their respective successors, which is why they decided to pin a murder on Bo's wife to bring him down.
Although the families of many members of the red second generation, including Bo's, suffered at Mao's hands, many of them remain fiercely attached to defending the achievements of his revolution. Bo, in particular, was known for his "sing red, strike black" campaign in Chongqing which combined an enthusiasm for Maoist revivalism and a ruthless crackdown against corruption. Bo and the red second generation's wish is to employ Mao's philosophy of ruling China with an autocratic, totalitarian iron fist, a thought that terrified Hu and Wen, the sources said.
Bo has not hid his frustration with the Hu and Wen faction, which he allegedly believes is too weak to lead China into the future. Bo reportedly once told a journalist that he thought the current members of the standing committee had "low IQs." Recordings given by Wang to the central committee allegedly featured an arrogant Bo ridiculing Hu, Xi and former president Jiang Zemin. It is said that Bo once even told a journalist that he believes ultimate power will one day return to the red second generation.
Qian Liqun, a retired professor from Peking University, said that the red second generation believes it is their destiny to rule China. He pointed out in a recent editorial that at the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, the Red Guards declared that the world would be theirs in 20 years.
Apart from Bo, the most prominent member of the red second generation is Liu. Bo's father Bo Yibo was a confidant of Liu's father Liu Shaoqi, and the two offspring have allegedly been very close since childhood. Both were said to have been angry that the mild-mannered Xi is expected to rise to the apex of Chinese politics ahead of them.
Last year, Liu wrote the preface of a book by his red second generation ally Zhang Musheng, in which the author urged reviving the early ideas of Chairman Mao as a template for fresh reforms. Zhang's idea of a "new democracy" included expanding the power of China's tame parliament and allowing more factional wrangling within the party. While it proposed defending workers through union autonomy and rolling back media controls, it was a still model under which the party would retain ultimate control. The book also praised Bo's "Chongqing model" of governance.
Liu attended the book launch in military uniform along with other key second red generation personnel. These included major general Luo Yuan, the son of Communist spy chief Luo Qingchang; Zhu Chenghu, the dean of a PLA university who once suggested that China should retaliate with nuclear weapons and be prepared to sacrifice hundreds of cities if Americans ever drew missiles on Chinese territory; and major general Qiao Liang, the co-author of Unrestricted Warfare, a book which explored a number of ways in which China could defeat a technologically superior opponent such as the US, including using terrorist tactics.
Liu Yuan 劉源
Bo Xilai 薄熙來
Xi Jinping 習近平
Mao Zedong 毛澤東
Gu Kailai 谷開來
Zhou Yongkang 周永康
Wang Lijun 王立軍
Liu Shaoqi 劉少奇
Hu Jintao 胡錦濤
Wen Jiabao 溫家寶
Li Keqiang 李克強
Jiang Zemin 江澤民
Qian Liqun 錢理群
Bo Yibo 薄一波
Zhang Musheng 張木生
Luo Yuan 羅援
Luo Qingchang 羅青長
Zhu Chenghu 朱成虎
Qiao Liang 喬良