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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More