Bo Xilai’s Wife at Center of Drama

The removal of Bo Xilai from his position as Party Secretary of Chongqing and potential Standing Committee member has sent shockwaves through Chinese political circles and exposed a deep divide among the party leadership. The New York Times reports that Bo Xilai’s personality and governing style played a role in intensifying the ideological divisions among the CCP ranks on the eve of a major leadership transition:

There is wide agreement among outsiders that Mr. Bo’s downfall points to perhaps the most serious division in the party elite since the leadership upheavals during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

But to many, neither Mr. Bo nor the explanation of his collapse is so clear-cut. They see a collision between a Communist Party that prizes stability and secrecy in choosing its leaders, and a new kind of leader who set his own political agenda and thrived on public adulation.

In a Western system, Mr. Bo might be called a populist. In China, where lockstep unity is a foundation of the party’s claim on power, he was a fearsome unknown.

“The concern was not that Bo would change the delicate balance of power, but that he would lead the party completely out of control,” said Cheng Li, an expert on China’s elite at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “It’s more than a power struggle. It’s a corresponding interest to maintain the legitimacy of the Communist Party — to survive.”

Meanwhile, Bo’s case has been complicated by the death of Briton Neil Heywood who reportedly had close ties with Bo’s family, in particular Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai. The Wall Street Journal has published an in-depth investigation into Gu’s background and career:

She was involved in, and profited from, a firm called Horas Consultancy & Investment, which advised clients wanting to do business in China as the country’s economy exploded in the 1990s, according to people familiar with the matter. She relied on a small entourage of advisers and friends that included Mr. Heywood, an American businessman named Larry Cheng and French architect Patrick Henri Devillers, all of whom became close to the Bo family in Dalian and Beijing, these people said.

The picture of Ms. Gu that emerges from interviews with lawyers and others who dealt with her, and from accounts that Mr. Heywood’s friends say they got from him, is of a woman whose intellect, drive and penchant for self-promotion easily matched her husband’s.

In recent years, however, she was troubled by depression, fear of betrayal and an increasingly distant relationship with her husband, who had a reputation for working long hours as he strove for what he considered his rightful place in the party’s top leadership, according to several people familiar with the family.

Mr. Heywood had told friends he feared for his safety after falling out with Ms. Gu, who he said had become increasingly convinced that she had been betrayed by someone in the family’s “inner circle” of friends and advisers, according to people familiar with the issue.

April 7, 2012 12:24 AM
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Categories: Politics