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.
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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs