Tuesday, May 15, 2012
The Fall of Bo Xilai
Former high-flying conservative Bo Xilai has been suspended from China’s Central Committee, a 200-plus-member top leadership body, as well as the more powerful Politburo, now with two dozen members. The charge: “suspected of being involved in serious discipline violations,” said Xinhua news agency on April 10. And in a stunning development, the state news agency also announced that Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, and an orderly from the Bo household are “highly suspected” in the homicide of a British businessman who died in Chongqing last November.
It is the biggest political scandal to hit China in years. It destroys any possibility of a smooth transition to the next generation of top leaders slated to take control at the National Party Congress, which will happen this fall. That had been the intention of China’s party brass, eager to present a unified face to the world. And it ends the career of the 62-year-old former party secretary and princeling—son of a Communist Party revolutionary—whose once-likely ascension to China’s Standing Committee would have made him one of the nine most powerful men in the country.
For Bo, it is an ignominious end to a career that earned him occasional kudos and plenty of enemies. He was praised for creating one of China’s most livable cities when he ran coastal Dalian in the 1990s. As minister of commerce from 2004 to 2007, he earned few friends among the foreign business community while gaining a reputation as a nationalist who favored Chinese state enterprises.
Bo’s prospects of reaching top office faded when his former chief of police, Wang Lijun, fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, Sichuan, in an apparent failed bid for political asylum. Now it appears Wang carried with him explosive allegations about Bo’s wife’s involvement in the Chongqing murder, effectively ending any possibility of Bo ever being promoted again. The unfolding scandal saw him replaced as Chongqing’s party secretary earlier, on March 15...