Bo Xilai, Neil Heywood, and the Future of the CCP
For those who need to catch up on the recent events in China, the Guardian’s Tania Branigan and Jonathan Watts have written an overview of what is known so far in the convoluted case involving Bo Xilai, his wife Gu Kailai, and Briton Neil Heywood:
It began more than 15 years ago in Dalian, a large port city on China’s northwest coast that was about to undergo a remarkable transformation. Today, Dalian markets itself as a green hi-tech hub and international conference centre. But then it was trying to shake off a reputation for depressed rust-belt industries and state-owned enterprises that were targeted for closure.
This was fertile ground for chancers, and in particular, for two men trying to make their mark – albeit at very different levels. Heywood was in his early 20s and had graduated from Warwick university with a degree in politics and international studies. Having odd-jobbed his way across the US and sailed the Atlantic, the Old Harrovian earned a living in China by teaching English, but took every opportunity to cultivate local officials who might further his goals to break into business.
He wrote a self-introduction to Bo, who had taken over as mayor of Dalian in 1993. Although 10 years Heywood’s senior, Bo was also working his way up the Communist hierarchy, and trying to ensure his family would prosper and avoid the hardship of his youth. During the Cultural Revolution, Bo was a Maoist Red Guard, but was later imprisoned for five years and his father was tortured when the family fell out of favour.
His second wife, Gu Kailai, was the daughter of a Communist party general. Her father had also been imprisoned during the political tumult of the 1960s. She – like Bo – overcame this bitter period, went on to attend a prestigious university and became an accomplished lawyer. She was said to be the first Chinese attorney to win a legal case in the US, but this failed to silence critics who accused her of cashing in on her husband’s political connections.
Viewed from the outside, China is a rising economic juggernaut poised for greatness. At home, however, it has struggled to contain the corrosive effects of corruption and abuse of power by officials and their allies. Although hundreds of millions of Chinese were lifted from extreme poverty in the past three decades of growth managed by the Communist Party, public resentment has grown over the widening gap in wealth and privilege.
The story of Bo and his family threatens to feed that dissatisfaction, suggesting an elite increasingly removed from those it governs, a Mafia-like clutch of political families who’ve enriched themselves through corruption.
Both Bo and his wife, Gu Kailai, are the offspring of Communist Party aristocracy. Bo, 62, is the son of a renowned party elder and Gu, 53, the daughter of a famous general. Until recently, Bo was considered a likely candidate for one of nine seats on the Politburo Standing Committee, the apogee of power in China.
Far from the selfless sacrifice for the people that party propaganda trumpets about its leaders, the story that has emerged about Bo and Gu in the past several weeks describes a palace court in danger of careening out of control. The particulars would be familiar to anyone who’s come in contact with the way some of China’s villages and towns are run.
Read more about the case on CDT’s Bo Xilai page.