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Terence Shen's Column

The tragedy of Mr Bo Xilai

The tragedy of Mr Bo Xilai

Terence Shen

Will Mr Bo Xilai, the son of a senior cadre fought with Deng Xiaoping side by side during the Communist revolutions, who sought leftist ideology for governance as the Party Chief of Chongqing, a mega city located in South west China, be elevated to the Standing Committee of the Politburo to run the whole country? Until this February, most of Chinese people, like me, would have held optimistic views by judging Mr Bo’s impressive governing ability and popularity he has shown during his tenures in Dalian and Chongqing.

But just few days later, with Chongqing Police chief Wang Lijun eerily gone to US. Consulate seeking asylum, one of the most dramatic play in China’s political arena kicked off. Wang was taken in custody by secret agents, and his boss Mr Bo, China’s most promising political star, has been eased out after he flew to Beijing for “Lianghui meetings”.

Today, no one knows exactly how the situation turned to whilst the political rumor mill has been in overdrive, but many are assuming that Mr Bo never hold a chance to come back after he disappeared from the stage in mid-March.How could a political figure with both revolutionary heritage and political ambition fall down overnight? As the matter of fact, Mr Bo has been digging his own grave all along.

Mr Bo was a communist fanatic during the Cultural Revolution. It was a well known anecdote that he kicked and broke his father’s rib when his father was labeled as counter-revolutionary by Mao’s league. “This boy is going to success in the future”, his father recalled his opinion about this brutal son at that moment. Mr Bo’s father was right. If you are brutal enough to do such thing for a political purpose, you are deemed to be somebody in politics, either in good or bad way.

Mr Bo knows how to attract domestic and foreign investment by focusing on city’s environment and infrastructure in Dalian. He knows how to buy off media and how to work on propaganda to hype his achievements in Chongqing, literally “Chongqing model”. However, he failed because he doesn’t know how to “hide his capacities and bide his time”. His tragedy is that finally he lost support from both the top and the bottom.

Mr Bo showed his capacity to the public, but his unconventional individualism was disliked by his colleagues and bosses. In an authoritarian state with rigid bureaucracy, people vested in interest and power are prone to status quo and reluctant to any kind of difference or change. Mr Bo brings differences in both personality and governance to the political circle so that he has been viewed as a potential threat who doesn’t like to play by the rule to incumbent leaders at the highest level of the Party-state.

Even with different fractions within the Party, there is still a consensus of laying low and gaining benefits quietly. It should be remembered that a man with vision and ability has never been treasured but always marginalized in Chinese politics because he is likely standing out while others would be withered in his shadow.

Particularly in Chong Qing, Bo tried  to make his resume credible and shining by all means, and drum up support from the old generation of Cultural Revolution by “singing red songs”, in hope to enter the standing committee early this year. Unfortunately, his tactics went badly.

Nowadays, the obsolete red slogans and songs from Maoist era have even disgusted by the people who yearn for liberal democracy and freedom of thought much stronger than ever before. Bo unwisely drew a clear line between him and China’s popular intellectuals and liberal citizens by accentuating on undesired Maoist ideology. Even the Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has a repugnance of such thing.

Another reason Bo became obnoxious to the public is that the anti-mafia campaign he launched with Wang Lijun in on,  was just a big and loud political farce in Chongqing. People are well aware that the judiciary procedure per se could be caught illicit ,let alone his anti-corruption campaign apparently hurt the interests of the big bosses in Beijing as well. Recently unveiled evidences show that Bo and Wang attacked their political and business rivals through acrimonious torture, perjury and imprisonment in a series of campaign.

Deng Xiaoping used to said that “China should maintain vigilance against the Right but primarily against the Left”. Bo died on this words. But more importantly, the end of his political life vindicates that there actually are rules in China’s arcane politics, and one of them is written as “never take a lead”.



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One thought on “The tragedy of Mr Bo Xilai

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