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How the Petraeus scandal might have gone down in China

Bo Xilai, a rising star in the Communist Party before his dismissal, confers with General Xu Caihou, a senior military leader. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

Imagine you wake up to this story: New Chinese leader Xi Jinping has just dismissed one of his country's most powerful and popular officials over an affair. The high-ranking general had recently left the military, where he is still revered, to run China's shadowy spy service, which is feared and respected around the world. He has been rumored to desire his boss's job. What's worse, China's government is internally divided by a long-running ideological dispute, and the fired general is widely thought to sympathize with officials on the other side of the dispute from Xi.

It's not hard to anticipate the fears that such a story might raise: political turmoil, instability, economic trouble, even a possible coup attempt. And, of course, it would start with assumption that the firing was really just a pretext for political jockeying or some other dark motive, as surely a mere affair would never be enough to topple someone so powerful.

But that's China. (Or, in a similar hypothetical, perhaps Russia, Egypt, Pakistan, or any authoritarian state.) Here in the U.S., we're blessed with rule of law and sufficiently transparent and accountable democratic institutions that, when President Obama accepted CIA Director David Petraeus's resignation, no one seemed to worry that pro-Petraeus generals would attempt to seize Pennsylvania Avenue, for example, or that the U.S. could fall into a period of instability. 

In the spirit of considering how a Petraeus-style saga might go in China, and perhaps in highlighting how different the two systems really are, a satirical Twitter account has posted several messages re-imagining the scandal as it might go down in Beijing. The satirical account, @RelevantOrgans, caricatures of the Chinese Communist Party's leadership, although in this case it's imagining how the American media might cover a Petreaus scandal in China (though the places and names are American, the story itself is all Chinese).



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Max Fisher · November 14, 2012

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