In December last year, Lin Zulian (林祖恋), along with other “Wukan rebel leaders”, was facing the prospect of being punished, once caught. Now, he has become secretary of Wukan’s local party branch.
This is the first ever case where a man on the government’s wanted list has become the Party Secretary of a village, the Telegraph‘s Peter Simpson quotes Yang Semao, one of Lin’s co-leaders in last year’s uprising.
That might be true. But in Chinese pre-communist history, co-opting rebels into leadership, if punishment would come at too high a cost (or if simply impossible) isn’t that new.
The Wukan revolt is seen as a small but significant milestone in the struggle between clean governance and Party dominance among China’s rural poor communities,
writes the Telegraph. This conclusion is almost certainly hyperbolic. For one, corruption exists beyond CCP officialdom. That’s not to say that power will corrupt Lin Zulian, but it remains to be seen what kind of party secretary he will be, and if he will last in his new position at all. He might, because he should be familiar with the big brotherhood’s hierarchy and procedures. According to Phoenix, Hong Kong, he has been a party member since 1965.
What this co-option has achieved however, is that it has saved Guangdong’s leadership’s face, in what may be a competition between different concepts of power. After all, Guangdong counts as one of the socially most advanced places in China. Bo Xilai might have handled the uprising quite differently.
And there will probably be a stabilizing effect in Wukan’s success, in that at least the local party secretary won’t feel motivated to avenge the CCP’s loss of face. The former “rebels” will feel more secure, than if the successor to Wukan’s previous party chief had come from outside the village.
Some party leaders may also remember Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily‘s savage assault of last month. “If it is difficult to rule a village, how can you rule what’s under heaven?”, the paper – as quoted by RTI – jeered (or wondered) in December.
Now, Lin Zukang must show that he can govern a village. The party will continue to govern what’s under heaven, the rest of the country, and Lin Zukang himself.