The first and most low-key seminar, in July, ignited what became a raging public debate about Bo Xilai's "Chongqing Model" versus its possible antidote, the more liberal "Guangdong Model." The second, in August, celebrated the 35th anniversary of the arrest of Mao's radical "Gang of Four," which slammed the door shut on the Cultural Revolution just weeks after Mao's death in August 1976. The third, in September, explored the 30th anniversary of the 1981 Resolution on History, which had confirmed the Cultural Revolution as a catastrophe that must never occur again.
It was at the September gathering that Hu Deping set down the themes that Wen later referred to in his press conference, and published his comments on a website dedicated to chronicling the life and times of his father: "The bottom line is making sure to adopt the attitude of criticizing and fundamentally denouncing the Cultural Revolution ... In recent years, for whatever reason, there seems to be a 'revival' of something like advocating the Cultural Revolution. Some people cherish it; some do not believe in the Cultural Revolution but nevertheless exploit it and play it up. I think we must guard this bottom line!"
The subtext, only barely concealed, was that Bo Xilai must be stopped from dragging Communist Party back toward its most radical, lawless past. How, one could be forgiven for asking, could Bo grasp for power by praising a movement that killed his own mother?
Hu Deping honed in on the need to forge mechanisms to institutionalize the power games between party leaders. He told his princeling and intellectual friends in the seminar audience that the remnants of feudal aristocracy -- old fashioned despotic power -- might again emerge as the party had said it had during the Cultural Revolution. He foreshadowed the ructions that are now taking place:
"If we really want to carry out democratization of inner-party political life, the cost is going to be enormous. Do we have the courage to accept that cost? If we do it now, there is a cost certainly. Do we dare to bear the cost? Is now the right time? I cannot say for sure. However, I think it might create some 'chaos' in some localities, some temporary 'chaos', and some localized 'chaos'. We should be prepared."
Hu Deping has been stepping forward, with some reluctance, to draw on his father's legacy to help shape China's future. He is a member of the standing committee of one of China's two representative-style bodies and mixes with senior leaders. He discussed the Cultural Revolution with both President Hu Jintao and his expected successor, Xi Jinping, not long before Wen Jiabao's news conference and Bo Xilai's demise, according to a source familiar with those conversations. China's politically engaged population is watching the battle now under way within the Politburo to frame the downfall of Bo Xilai and set the lessons that will shape China's future.