China’s Communist party bosses will be glad that what had been an irritating distraction has been ‘resolved’.
One day before their biggest meeting of the year begins in Beijing – the Third Plenary of the Communist party’s Central Committee – a culprit has apparently confessed to planting a series of homemade bombs on Wednesday morning, outside local government offices in Taiyuan, in an attack that killed one person and injured eight.
Feng Zhijun was arrested at his home. He was caught – police say – with bomb-making equipment and a ‘large amount’ of other evidence. Apparently, he confessed quickly.
The statements from state media give a sense that 48 hours after the initial attack the case is now closed.
Party bosses will be pleased too that the man arrested is local. The attack in Taiyuan came several days after people who were allegedally Uygur ‘extremist’ deliberatly crashed and exploded their car in Beijing’s Tianamen Sqaure, and the authorities didn’t want any suggestions that the two events were linked.
But the Taiyuan attack was also a political act.
It was, the Chinese government says, terrorism.
The arrest of a local man in Taiyuan gave the impression that the attack was the culmination of a local dispute. That isn’t to trivialise it. Such small-scale attacks have become more common in recent months and years. They are often carried out by so-called ‘petitioners’ – people with complaints against often-corrupt local officials who feel they are getting no justice through formal channels.
At the Plenary, Communists party officials will want to discuss reforms that can head off further attacks possibly with security crack-downs but – better still – by addressing some of the issues that give rise to the grievances that turn so sour as to become deadly.
One analyst described China’s system of government to me earlier this week as ‘accountable authoritarianism’. The political system relies not just on political repression, but on responding to economic and social grievances before they gather steam.
A pattern of bombings – even if they are technically unconnected – is not a good look. Those at the Plenary meeting will want to introduce reforms that stop them happening again.
Party bosses, though, will be pleased they can at least hold their talks aftet the latest attack has been ‘dealt with’.