News / Asia

China's Cultural Revolution Played Part in Bo Xilai's Rise and Fall

Bo Xilai's Rise and Falli
X
August 16, 2013 3:19 PM
As former Chinese political star awaits trial for corruption and other charges, VOA's Bill Ide takes a closer look at how the country's tumultuous Cultural Revolution played a part in both his rapid rise and fall.

As former Chinese political star Bo Xilai awaits trial for corruption and other charges, VOA's Bill Ide takes a closer look at how the country's tumultuous Cultural Revolution played a part in both his rapid rise and fall.

William Ide
The struggles of Chinese politician Bo Xilai have captured international attention and become an embarrassment that authorities in China would like to move past quickly. As the former Chinese political star awaits trial for corruption and other charges, some analysts believe China's tumultuous Cultural Revolution played a part in both his rapid rise and fall.
 
When Bo Xilai was a teenager, China was in the grips of Mao Zedong's violent Cultural Revolution. A time of political struggle that turned children against parents, husbands against wives.
 
Bo and his father, a party elder, each spent years in prison and his mother died of unknown causes. Those experiences, however, did little to shake Bo’s respect for the man who unleashed the turmoil.

Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Beijing’s Renmin University, says Bo was similar to other descendants of influential officials, red princelings, they all have one shortcoming: they have all grown up with the wolves, they all have experienced psychologically this sense of political struggle and revolution.  Although Mao Zedong ruined their families, he says they still admire Mao.
 
But as much as Bo was an admirer of Mao, he also worshiped Western culture, Zhang added.
 
"Mao did not have anything to do with the West, when looking at Mao you cannot find any Western feature, but Bo Xilai himself really worshipped western culture and, in fact, he was able to take these two elements, Mao and westernization, and combine them really well, according to Zhang."
 
Bo was the son of one of China’s prominent Communist Party elders, Bo Yibo. And as a princeling, as son’s and daughters of ranking officials are called in China, his father helped aid his rapid rise within the party and to government posts.
 
During his career, Bo served in key economic centers, including Dalian and lastly in the mega city of Chongqing. At one point he was China’s Commerce Minister and many analysts believe that before his fall he was likely to become one of China’s top leaders.
 
Analysts describe Bo as handsome, charismatic, imaginative and media savvy, but also as someone who grew more authoritarian as his career flourished.
 
Despite his family connections and career success, political analyst Cheng Li says few of Bo's counterparts in the United States liked him when he served as Commerce Minister.
 
They were not impressed by Bo Xilai, Li said.  They liked other leaders such as Wu Yi and certainly Wang Qishan, adding that they all received a lot of praise, but usually they found Bo Xilai was very egotistical, very blunt and ultra nationalistic.
 
When Bo became party secretary of the southern mega city Chongqing, the appointment was seen as a demotion. But using lessons from his experiences during the Cultural Revolution, he launched a crackdown on gangs and promoted the singing of revolutionary red songs.
 
When he realized that his political future ran into a wall, he turned to copy Mao's model, take advantage of the common folk's dissatisfaction or resentment of the status quo, said Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng.  "I'm not sure he really felt that way, but at least he verbally said so and took action."
 
The results of his approach in Chongqing, however, had similarities with Mao's Cultural Revolution. However, unlike the Cultural Revolution where Mao’s leadership was uncontested, Bo’s was.
 
LI said one his two major policy agendas was to crack down on the mafia, but now it's clear know that he and his family, his wife, behaved like the mafia or the head of the mafia.
 
Li added that while his behavior was inconsistent and hypocritical, it was not like that of other leaders in the past, including Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin and Hitler.
 
Li said Bo’s approach was a successful tactic, at least until his wife was exposed as the murderer of a British businessman. If that had never happened, analysts believe Bo's rise may have never stopped.

Scenes from Chongqing, China:

  • Low-income housing built by the Chongqing government was a popular project. Image shot in April, 2012. (VOA/Ming Zhang)
  • A farmer in Chongqing, formerly a part of Sichuan Province. In 1997 the city rose to be one of the four special municipalities under the direct control of the central government. The municipality encompasses large urban and rural areas in southwest China. (VOA/Ming Zhang)
  • The luxury hotel in Chongqing where British national Neil Heywood was alleged murdered by Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai. Photo taken April, 2012. (VOA/Ming Zhang)
  • A city scene in Chongqing, China. Photo taken April, 2012. (VOA/Ming Zhang)
  • Chongqing-ers carrying out spontaneous singing sessions in parks -- “singing the red songs” was a key signature of Bo’s effort to mobilize local population, an effort that subsequently gained considerable traction nationwide. (VOA/Ming Zhang)
  • “Ordinary people’s foodstuffs are the highest concerns of local government,” the sign says. (VOA/Ming Zhang)

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid