The List

The Show Must Go On

Purging a top Chinese official doesn't always go as planned.

Sometime soon, disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai will face his accusers in a trial as fair and impartial as loaded dice. Charged with bribery, abuse of power, and corruption, he will almost certainly be convicted of the charges against him. The trial will cap Bo's spectacular downfall -- a saga which began in February 2012, when his right-hand-man Wang Lijun fled to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, and featured bizarre and fantastical revelations of intrigue, bribery, and poison.

The last major trial in the Bo saga was the August 2012 indictment of his wife Gu Kailai, who was given a suspended death sentence for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. During the half-day trial, Gu reportedly confessed, admitting: "I committed a crime that brought negative consequences to the party and the country." Gu also thanked her lawyers, the judge, and the prosecutors, who "opened the curtains a little bit, to reveal the hidden dirty secrets."

Gu's passivity may make it seem that Chinese show trials follow the Soviet model, featuring weeping defendants pleading for leniency and reinforcing the unquestioned authority of the state. And indeed, some high-ranking Chinese officials do break down: Liu Zhijun, the former minister of railways, reportedly cried at the end of his July 2013 trial, and "had a very good attitude in confession and a strong desire to repent," according to Xinhua, China's official news agency.

But the removal and sentencing of top Chinese officials have been messy affairs, featuring surprisingly rebellious performances from the defendants. Since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, the Communist Party has only tried three officials who held power and influence comparable to Bo, and none of them marched gently into that good night.

Chen Liangyu (April 2008)

Chen, a party secretary for the municipality of Shanghai, was the last official of Bo's rank to face trial, and his experience might be a blueprint. Like Bo, Chen was an aggressive politician who fell in part because he clashed with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, China's president and premier respectively from 2003 to 2013, over economic policies. In a 2004 meeting of China's Politburo, the 25-member top decision-making body, Chen "confronted Wen" and warned him that he and the cabinet "would have to ‘bear the political responsibility'" if the premier's policies triggered unemployment and bankruptcies, according to a 2006 Newsweek article.

Chen was detained in September 2006, officially for taking bribes and for his role in a scandal over the misuse of Shanghai's pension fund, but the real reasons probably had more to do with factional politics, wrote Cheng Li, now China research director at the Brookings Institution. While Chen was "certainly notorious for his rottenness, he was, however, only one among several Politburo members with such a reputation," noted Li.

A closed-door trial was held for Chen 18 months after his arrest. In her trial, the formerly striking Gu appeared dumpy and dejected, prompting rumors that a body double had replaced her. Chen, on the other hand, appeared calm and in control -- in video of the trial, he can be seen smirking at the camera, his eyes defiant. While Chen admitted he was "partially responsible" for the scandal, he pleaded not guilty. He was sentenced to 18 years.

Chen Xitong (June 1998)

Like Bo, the unraveling of former Beijing party secretary and Politburo member Chen Xitong involved a death -- in his case, the April 1995 suicide of Deputy Mayor Wang Baosen, who was accused of corruption. China's then Party Chairman Jiang Zemin used Wang's death as an excuse to move against Chen, who had been opposing Jiang's policies and running the capital as his own fiefdom. Chen was detained soon after Wang took his own life.

It helped matters that Chen was generally detested in Beijing for his exuberant support of the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen crackdown and for many other reasons, including his elaborate bribery requirements for real estate developments and "his broken pledge to jump from one of Beijing's highest buildings if the city failed to win the 2000 Olympics," according to historian Bruce Gilley. But Chen also had deep ties to the family of Deng Xiaoping, at that point the most powerful man in China, and he refused to cooperate with the proceedings. "If you sentence me to death, you can get 300 coffins ready," Chen allegedly said at the time, implying that the authorities prosecuting him were equally corrupt.  

Chen was detained for nearly three years before he was officially arrested in February 1998. Embarrassingly, the court, which said he "squandered a large amount of public funds to support a corrupt and decadent life," struggled to find convincing examples of corruption to tie to him. It eventually went with "misappropriated gifts" he obtained on diplomatic duties, valued at roughly $67,000 -- a list of items that included "four expensive pens, three cameras and one video camera." Sentenced to 18 years, Chen was released on medical parole in 2004. In 2012, he published a book in which he said his trial was "an absurd miscarriage of justice."

Jiang Qing (Winter 1980)

After taking power in the late 1970s, China's then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping decided to televise the trial for the Gang of Four -- a group of Chinese officials, helmed by Mao's wife Jiang Qing, blamed for the excesses of Mao's 10-year anarchic Cultural Revolution. Bo Xilai's charges of bribery, abuse of power, and corruption pale in comparison with that of the Gang of Four and their accomplices, which included subversion, counter-revolutionary activity, treason, and "persecuting to death" more than 34,000 people.

Most of the defendants, like in the Moscow show trials of the 1930s, "confessed to all charges, whether they were guilty of them or not," writes author Ross Terrill in his 1984 biography "Madame Mao: The White Boned Demon." He cites the example of Wu Faxian, a former People's Liberation Army Air Force chief, who told the court that "Jiang Qing is the chief culprit," adding dejectedly, "I hate myself."

But Jiang, an actress, gave a memorable performance, lambasting the judge, jury, and witnesses for daring to accuse her of crimes. At one point, Jiang called a female judge "you bitch"; she was frog-marched from court, with the gallery applauding her forced exit. In her three-hour closing remarks, Jiang taunted the judges and "dared" them to publically execute her. The court instead sentenced Jiang to death with a two-year reprieve, a sentence that was commuted to life imprisonment in 1983. (Jiang committed suicide in 1992.)

Bo probably won't act out at his trial: He still has more left to lose than Jiang did, including family in China and overseas whom he could protect by staying quiet. Indeed, the top Chinese officials planning Bo's trial want to keep the spotlight firmly directed towards the defendant, and not the accusers. Nothing undermines a show trial more than peeling away the curtain, as when Jiang turned towards her former comrades-in-arms and shouted, "If I am guilty, how about you all!"

The List

The FP Twitterati 100

A who's who of the foreign-policy Twitterverse in 2013.

From popes to presidents to pundits, the world's most important conversations increasingly happen 140 characters at a time. Here's FP's annual list of the 100 people you should be following to make sense of global events.

Follow FP's full Twitterati 100 here.


Carl Bildt (@carlbildt): Swedish foreign minister and one of the most candid diplomats around.

Bill Clinton (@billclinton): 42nd U.S. president, Clinton Foundation founder, and Mick Jagger's BFF.

Hillary Clinton (@hillaryclinton): The former U.S. secretary of state and human meme-generator doesn't tweet at the same rate these days, but you'll want to keep an eye on this feed as 2016 looms.

Pope Francis (@Pontifex): This feed, available in multiple languages, including Latin, is not only the best way to keep tabs on the unpredictable pontiff's travels and activities. Following it can now actually get you into heaven.

John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain): Leader of the loyal opposition.

Michael McFaul (@McFaul): Barack Obama's ambassador to Russia, live and occasionally uncensored.

Samantha Power (@ambassadorpower): The new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is also new to Twitter, having just started an account on Aug. 5. But like her predecessor Susan Rice, she seems remarkably candid and open for a diplomat.


Chris Adams (@chrisadamsmkts): Markets editor at the Financial Times.

Tyler Cowen (@tylercowen): Professor of economics at George Mason University, author, ethnic-food expert, and pioneering econoblogger.

Megan Greene (@economistmeg): Frighteningly prescient chief economist at Maverick Intelligence, with a focus on the eurozone crisis.

Zero Hedge (@zerohedge): Shadowy and often hysterical, but always essential group feed on financial markets.

Branko Milanovic (@BrankoMilan): Expert on global inequality, soccer superfan.

Emily Oster (@ProfEmilyOster): University of Chicago economist and must-follow for social science geeks.

Nouriel Roubini (@Nouriel): New York University professor of economics and international business; prophet of doom.

Felix Salmon (@FelixSalmon): Eclectic finance blogger for Reuters.

Joseph Weisenthal (@TheStalwart): Hyperactive executive editor at Business Insider.


Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe): The New Republic senior editor may have left Moscow behind, but she still weighs in on events in the Motherland from Twitter.

Edward Lucas (@edwardlucas): International editor for the Economist, with a focus on Eastern Europe.

J. Clive Matthews (@Nosemonkey): Managing editor at MSN International, but tweets mainly about the European Union.

Peter Spiegel (@SpiegelPeter): Brussels bureau chief for the Financial Times and stalwart summit-tweeter.

Matina Stevis (@MatinaStevis): Brussels-based journalist for Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal; a key follow on the European financial crisis.

Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7): Moscow correspondent for the Independent.


Issandr El Amrani (@arabist): Writer and analyst based in Cairo.

The Big Pharaoh (@TheBigPharaoh): This pseudonymous Egyptian blogger has been a must-read on his country's tumultuous politics since 2004.

Sarah Carr (@Sarahcarr): Relentless British-Egyptian reporter and blogger. Her avatars are a rotating rogues' gallery of her least-favorite Egyptian political figures.

Golnaz Esfandiari (@GEsfandiari): Iran reporter and blogger for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, based in Washington, D.C.

Ali Gharib (@Ali_Gharib): Brooklyn-based Middle East blogger and frequent Daily Beast contributor. 

Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg): Washington-based correspondent for the Atlantic; official therapist of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Hala Gorani (@halagorani): CNN International anchor and longtime Mideast correspondent.

Eliot Higgins (@Brown_Moses): The Britain-based blogger known as Brown Moses has made himself into an authority on Syrian weapons, with his work cited by everyone from Amnesty International to the New York Times.

Hussein Ibish (@ibishblog): Blogger and senior research fellow for the American Task Force on Palestine.

Tony Karon (@TonyKaron): Time's veteran, supersarcastic foreign affairs editor was recently hired by Al Jazeera America.

Robin Mills (@robinenergy): Dubai-based energy consultant and columnist.

Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa): Correspondent for the Al Aan satellite network; providing relentless coverage on Syria.

Eman Al Nafjan (@Saudiwoman): Saudi Arabia's most prominent female blogger.

Ahmed Al Omran (@ahmed): The original Saudi blogger; now running Riyadh Bureau from Saudi Arabia.

Sultan Al Qassemi (@SultanAlQassemi): Prominent Emirati columnist, investor, and art aficionado; go-to source for breaking news from the Arab world.

Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid): Diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz. Scoop machine.

Mahmoud Salem (@Sandmonkey): Foul-mouthed Egyptian revolutionary blogger and son of a former ruling-party parliamentarian; based in Cairo.

Lara Setrakian (@lara): Roving correspondent and founder of the single-topic news site Syria Deeply.

Liz Sly (@LizSly): Beirut-based correspondent for the Washington Post. Essential on Syria.

Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov): Istanbul-based journalist for Today's Zaman.


Teju Cole (@tejucole): Nigerian-born novelist who hops between Lagos and Brooklyn.

Howard French (@hofrench): Journalism professor; former New York Times correspondent in Africa and China.

Calestous Juma (@calestous): Kenyan-born professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and authority on science and technology in Africa.

Andrew Mwenda (@AndrewMwenda): Managing editor of Uganda's Independent magazine; aid critic.

Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen): New York Times bureau chief in Johannesburg; formerly in New Delhi.

Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW): Kenyan author and director of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists at Bard College.


Mariano Castillo (@marianoCNN): CNN's Latin America news desk editor. A good all-purpose feed.

Damien Cave (@damiencave): New York Times correspondent in Mexico. 

Simon Romero (@viaSimonRomero): New York Times bureau chief in Brazil.

Carol Rosenberg (@carolrosenberg): The Miami Herald's indefatigable Gitmo reporter.


Bill Bishop (@niubi): Beijing-based blogger and all-around China watcher; author of the Sinocism China Newsletter.  

Adam Cathcart (@adamcathcart): Get your news, views, rumors, and weirdness on North Korea here.

Gady Epstein (@gadyepstein): Wickedly funny Beijing correspondent for the Economist; formerly with Forbes.

Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior): Often combative but always insightful Central Asia expert and media critic.

Jean Lee (@newsjean): The Associated Press's Korea bureau chief and the only journalist to tweet (semi-)regularly from Pyongyang.

Hiroko Tabuchi (@HirokoTabuchi): Tokyo correspondent for the New York Times, tweeting on everything from high-tech to high art.

Edward Wong (@comradewong): China correspondent for the New York Times.


Sadanand Dhume (@dhume): South Asia analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. 

C. Christine Fair (@CChristineFair): Georgetown University assistant professor, dog lover, and sharp-tongued South Asia expert.

Arif Rafiq (@ArifCRafiq): Pakistani-American analyst and consultant based in Washington, D.C.

Declan Walsh (@declanwalsh): New York Times reporter who was recently expelled from his post in Pakistan; his location, "Islamabad, ideally."


J.M. Berger (@intelwire): A high-volume, high-energy feed focused primarily on counterterrorism, from a Boston-based journalist.

Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC): Presidential historian and exemplary history tweeter.

Michael Clemens (@m_clem): Wide-ranging scholar at the Center for Global Development.

David Gomez (@AllThingsHLS): Former FBI agent and emerging must-follow on homeland security issues.

Andrew Exum (@abumuqawama): Former Army Ranger, blogger, and counterinsurgency guru at the Center for a New American Security.

Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald): Love him or hate him, after he made PRISM a household name this year, you can't afford to ignore him.

Will McCants (@will_mccants): Former counterterrorism analyst at the State Department; now an expert at CNA.

Danielle Pletka (@dpletka): Anyone interested in the future of Republican foreign policy should be following this Senate staffer turned American Enterprise Institute scholar.

Paul Salopek (@paulsalopek): Veteran journalist on a project to trace the history of human migration from Ethiopia to South America on foot. Currently somewhere in Saudi Arabia.

Erin M. Simpson (@charlie_simpson): Big issues meet big data with a side of Broadway.

Anne-Marie Slaughter (@SlaughterAM): Professor at Princeton University and former head of policy planning at the State Department.

Marcy Wheeler (@emptywheel): Michigan-based blogger and leading online critic of the national security state.

Asher Wolf (@Asher_Wolf): Tart-tongued Aussie information activist. 

Lauren Wolfe (@Wolfe321): Director of the Women Under Siege project and authority on gender and conflict. 


Mark Leon Goldberg (@MarkLGoldberg): Blogger for the United Nations Foundation's UN Dispatch, which covers the inner workings of Turtle Bay and Foggy Bottom.

Matthew Lee (@innercitypress): Eccentric but comprehensive U.N. coverage.


Rebecca MacKinnon (@rmack): Authority on the Internet and democracy with a special interest in China.

Evgeny Morozov (@evgenymorozov): Silicon Valley naysayer and chief scourge of "solutionism."

Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian): The American Civil Liberties Union's resident tech guru and reggae fanatic.

Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ): Author, blogger, academic, and inventor of the cute-cat theory of digital activism.  


Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman): National security editor for the Guardian's U.S. edition; tweets on everything from the National Security Agency leaks to punk rock to the New York Yankees.

Margaret Brennan (@margbrennan): CBS correspondent following the State Department.

Emily Cadei (@emilycadei): Foreign-policy reporter for CQ Roll Call; useful source for goings-on on Capitol Hill.

Rosie Gray (@RosieGray): Reporter for BuzzFeed, exposer of foreign government lobbying shenanigans.

Josh Rogin (@joshrogin): Former FP Cable guy now plying his trade at the Daily Beast.

Laura Rozen (@lrozen): Veteran journalist reporting on Washington for the Middle East-focused news outlet Al-Monitor.


Hayes Brown (@HayesBrown): High-volume feed from ThinkProgress's resident national security blogger.

Miriam Elder (@MiriamElder): Former Moscow correspondent turned foreign editor of BuzzFeed.

Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow): Not just another celebrity do-gooder, the Rosemary's Baby star dives headlong into debates on development and national security. Sadly didn't actually watch Sharknado with Philip Roth.

Max Fisher (@Max_Fisher): Insightful and scary-fast Washington Post foreign affairs blogger.

David Grann (@DavidGrann): One of the world's best magazine feature writers also has a charmingly eclectic Twitter presence.

Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell): Former FP managing editor, now deputy editor of Politico magazine; still tweeting valuable insights on world news at a superhuman rate.

Anup Kaphle (@AnupKaphle): Digital foreign editor at the Washington Post aggressively tweeting on world news and national security.

Olga Khazan (@olgakhazan): Global editor for the Atlantic with a particular interest in Russia.

Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof): Crusading columnist for the New York Times; has traveled to every member of the axis of evil at least twice.

Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth): Outspoken executive director of Human Rights Watch. 

Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen): Lightning-fast editor of BuzzFeed; ringleader of the American political Twittersphere.


Follow FP tweeps here.

Gordon Adams (@Gadams1941): American University professor and FP columnist.

Daniel Altman (@altmandaniel): FP economics columnist.

P.J. Aroon (@pjaroonFP): Copy chief, comma enforcer.

David Bosco (@multilateralist): American University professor and Multilateralist blogger.

Ian Bremmer (@ianbremmer): President of Eurasia Group and The Call blogger.

Rosa Brooks (@brooks_rosa): New America Foundation fellow and FP columnist.

Christian Caryl (@ccaryl): Columnist and editor of Democracy Lab.

Yochi Dreazen (@yochidreazen): Senior writer for international affairs.

Daniel Drezner (@dandrezner): Tufts University professor and FP blogger; zombie expert.

Rebecca Frankel (@becksfrankel): Special projects editor, war-dog author.

Uri Friedman (@UriLF): Deputy managing editor, Passport proprietor.

Elias Groll (@EliasGroll): Assistant editor, blogger, resident Swede.

Shane Harris (@shanewharris): Senior writer focusing on national security.

John Hudson (@John_Hudson): Staff writer, Cable blogger.

David Kenner (@DavidKenner): Cairo-based Middle East editor.

Charles Kenny (@charlesjkenny): FP contributing editor and fellow at the Center for Global Development; optimist.

Christina Larson (@larsonchristina): China-based contributing editor.

Gordon Lubold (@glubold): National security reporter and Situation Report writer.

Colum Lynch (@columlynch): U.N. reporter for the Washington Post and FP.

Marc Lynch (@abuaardvark): George Washington University professor and Middle East Channel editor.

Ty McCormick (@TyMccormick): Associate editor.

Aaron David Miller (@aarondmiller2): Former diplomat and FP columnist.

Neha Paliwal (@nehapl): Assistant Editor at Democracy Lab.

Ben Pauker (@benpauker): Managing editor.

Clyde Prestowitz (@clydeprestowitz): Economic Strategy Institute president and FP blogger.

John Reed (@ReedFP): Killer Apps blogger.

David Rothkopf (@djrothkopf): FP Group CEO and editor at large; weekly columnist.

Peter Scoblic (@PeterScoblic): Executive editor for analysis and commentary.

Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman): Executive editor for news.

Margaret Slattery (@margyslattery): Assistant managing editor.

Isaac Stone Fish (@isaacstonefish): Associate editor focusing on China.

J. Dana Stuster (@JDanaStuster): Assistant editor with a special interest in Yemen.

James Traub (@JamesTraub1): Author and FP columnist.

Stephen Walt (@StephenWalt): Harvard University international relations professor and FP blogger.

Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer (@APQW): Assistant editor, exiled Californian.

Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko): Council on Foreign Relations fellow and FP columnist.

AfPak Channel (@afpakchannel)

Democracy Lab (@Democracy_Lab)

Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy)

FP Group (@TheFPGroup)

FP National Security (@FPNatSec)

Mideast Channel (@MideastChannel)

Are we missing one of your favorite follows? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter (@ForeignPolicy) which tweeps deserve to be in the Twitterati 100.