Bo Xilai: China’s Brash Populist
While an otherwise fawning foreign media followed his every move at the NPC, quoting him freely, China’s top leaders did not deign to acknowledge him during this year’s gathering of the faithful. Why?
On the surface, Bo’s war on crime and corruption should be welcomed by the leadership. At least on paper, fighting triads and bad apples in the party is a top priorities. But Bo’s naked ambition and appeal clearly scare the party elite. And so might his frontal attacks on corruption.
Indeed, Bo, who trained as a journalist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has created a personality cult in Chongqing that some critics say harkens back to Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution (1966 and 1976). He has even claimed Mao as his spiritual mentor, mass texting the Great Helmsman’s epigrammatic quotations, including “What really counts in the world is conscientiousness”, to millions of mobile phone users and leading party meetings in the singing of revolutionary songs. He appears to be going over the heads of the political elite and appealing directly to the people to advance his political ambitions.