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Bo Xilai is a former Chinese politician. From 2004 to 2017 as a Minister of Commerce, later from 2007 to 2012 he served as the member of the Politburo and communist party secretary of Chongqing. Bo Xilai’s conviction, despite his “princeling” status and his membership with Politburo, appears to be a turning point for the Chinese nepotistic and dynastic political system. His influence on Chinese politics and the result of his trial, proved to be a revelation for both the nation and the world about how corruption sweeps politics, irrespective of lineage.
5. The Childhood of a “Princeling” of Chinese politics
As the son of Bo Yibo, a prominent figure in Communist China, the Chinese politician Bo Xilai is considered a “princeling” in the nepotistic hierarchies of Chinese politics. During a purge, Bo’s mother died, leaving him with his father, who grew to be a critical political figure in China, providing a powerful lineage for Bo. From the Shanxi Province, Bo Xilai was given privilege during his childhood in Beijing. As he grew into his youth, he applied for membership in the Red Guard, an elite collective of the offspring of Chinese officials. Though Bo Xilai found his lineage to be a blessing in regards to status and leeway in politics, he claims that it initially proved to be a hindrance: it created hindrances in his growth in his early youth and career. With his father as an Elder in a notable political party, and with his status as “princeling,” it appeared that Bo Xilai’s childhood was one with influence and privilege.
4. His Early Life and the Formation of a Political Career
Bo Xilai stood out from the rest of the individuals in Chinese politics: he took a Masters in Journalism in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, graduating in 1982. Most of the political officials were from the fields of engineering and science. Despite the family name, Bo took on the role of the deputy secretary of the party, then went onto become secretary, both in the DATDZ and the Jinzhou Party. Quickly making his mark, Bo Xilai was introduced into the Standing Committee of the Dalian Municipal CPC Committee, later taking the position of the vice-mayor. Bo’s career was substantially funded through Jiang Zemin, who came from in large part, the Communist Party roots, like that of his father. He was also a member of a collective made up of those like him: “princelings” and other privileged or notable elite, throughout.
3. Bo Xilai’s Family
Bo Xilai initially married Li Danyu, who bore connections of a former party secretary. With a wedding in September of 1976, Bo Xilai and Li Danyu bore a son named Brendan Li Wangzhi. However, with a divorce in 1984, Brendan altered his surname to Li, as per the wishes of his mother. Li Wangzhi differed from his father despite the family’s orientation in the political arena: he took up a Masters in Media Studies and worked in a bank, law firm, and then private equity. Despite the divorce and differences, Li Wangzhi claimed that the verdict of Bo Xilai affected his life. However, Li appears to be in contact with father, providing statements of his father’s condition in prison, despite having interaction with his father rarely in funerals, courtrooms, and most recently, in prison. Bo’s second wife lies at the heart of the controversy, the lawyer Gu Kailai, whom he wedded in 1986. Gu Kailai appeared to have overcome an awkward youth to have founded a successful law firm, despite being born from a prestigious politician father and artisan mother. 2013 saw Gu Kailai’s investigation in the murder of British Neil Heywood over money, where the businessman threatened Gu Kailai’s son. Heywood had been a family acquaintance who had helped Bo and his wife get their son Bo Guagua into Harrow School, UK, and Balliol College, Oxford, and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government for his work in public administration. Bo Guagua himself lived a privileged lifestyle marked with high-end cars, luxurious social outings, and a playboy status, which both father and son denied. Though Bo had barely enough money to afford such lavish lifestyles for his wife and himself, he sent his son through expensive educational institutions, which was later revealed to be the manipulation of the family friend Neil Heywood, who was then murdered by Gu Kailai.
2. The Importance of Bo Xilai
What is notable about Bo Xilai is his “princeling” status: both, his father and Bo Xilai are members of the family who directly contributed to the making of Communist China. This familial and nepotistic aspect is a reminder to the people watching that family politics, dynastic politics, is still prevalent in China: there is a clear hierarchy in society when it comes to lineage. These elite families have the privilege, power, and fortune to direct the nation in its path, as it occurred in both Nationalist and Communist China. Despite Bo’s star-studded path to the Politburo, with terms as secretary, deputy secretary, and governor, Bo’s appeal was negated by the courts, resulting in imprisonment for life for his criminal offenses, which highlight the massive scale of corruption existing in Chinese politics, at the highest level of political power.
1. Bo’s Downfall :
Bo Xilai’s downfall began in March 2012, with suspension from office, and April 2012, suspension from the Communist Party of China’s elite group called Politburo. Earlier, Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, had been investigated for the murder of a British businessman named Neil Heywood, which Bo had attempted to manipulate through illegal means. However, with the conviction of his wife, Bo has under investigation, producing evidence of his instigation and complicity in corruption: bribery, manipulation, misuse of power. Despite having led the metropolitan Chongqing for years, Bo had been power hungry and manipulative, taking exceedingly large quantities of bribes in many forms. The 2013 verdict deemed the politician fit for a life sentence. Adding fuel to the fire, Bo’s brother stepped down from his office as Vice Chairman of an international company to save face for the family, and the company as well. Furthermore, his police chief Wang Lujin was also complicit in covering up the crime of Gu Kailai. Such evidence made it difficult for Bo Kailai and others involved to get opportunities for self-defense.
The revelations about Bo’s career tactics have tainted his lineage and destroyed his desires for membership on the most critical political group in China, a subdivision of the Politburo called the Politburo Standing Committee, a group of nine individuals comprising the highest political power in China. However, there may be more to the narrative. The shockwaves of the verdict and resigning of the Bo family members remain in public discussion, with a question of a power struggle on the tip of their tongues.