News / Asia

Chinese Public Doubts Beijing’s Pledges to Fight Corruption

Then Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai attends a plenary session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 11, 2012.
Then Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai attends a plenary session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 11, 2012.
VOA News
By detailing the extent of disgraced politician Bo Xilai’s abuses, China’s communist leadership has taken a hard stance on corruption, but many commentators in China say they doubt whether the case will lead to fundamental change in China.

Shortly after announcing that Bo Xilai had been expelled from the party and faced criminal prosecution for his crimes, China’s state news agency Xinhua published a commentary titled "Whoever tramples on party discipline and national law will be punished severely."

  • In this photo released by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, Bo Xilai is handcuffed and held by police officers as he stands at the court in Jinan, in eastern China's Shandong province, Sept. 22, 2013.
  • A minivan believed to be carrying Bo Xilai arrives at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court ahead of the fifth day of Bo's trial, August 26, 2013. 
  • In this image taken from video, Bo Xilai addresses a court at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in eastern China's Shandong province, Aug. 24, 2013.
  • A woman protests outside the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, eastern China's Shandong province, August 21, 2013.
  • Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, is seen in a still image taken from an August 10, 2013 video provided by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court.
  • Policemen are seen at a court building where the trial for Bo Xilai was held in Jinan, Shandong province.
  • Former police chief Wang Lijun speaks during a court hearing in Chengdu, China, in this still image taken from CCTV video, Sept. 18, 2012.
  • This video image taken from CCTV shows Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, being taken into the Intermediate People's Court in the eastern Chinese city Hefei, August 9, 2012.
  • Police officers stand guard at the Hefei City Intermediate People's Court for the murder trial of Gu Kailai, Anhui Province, China, August 9, 2012.
  • A  combonation photo showing Neil Heywood and Gu Kailai.
  • Bo Xilai, walks past Communist Party leaders at the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 9, 2012.
  • Bo Xilai, right and his son, Bo Guagua, 2007.
(Click to view the photo gallery)
Bo’s indictment, the article says, is further evidence of the party’s resolution to fight corruption no matter how high ranking the dishonest official is. “The hand does not reach out,” the piece reads quoting Cheng Yi, a famous Mao-era politician, “when it does it needs to be caught.”

Such comments underscore the leadership’s need to distance itself from corruption, which is perceived as endemic by many commentators and threatens to antagonize the Chinese public.

Timeline of the Bo Xilai Scandal

  • February 2: Bo's key ally and Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun is demoted
  • February 6: Wang visits U.S. consulate in Chengdu
  • March 15: Bo dismissed as Chongqing party chief
  • March 26: Britain asks China to investigate November death of Briton Neil Heywood in Chongqing
  • April 10: Bo suspended from Communist Party posts. China says Gu is being investigated for Heywood's death
  • August 20: Gu given suspended death sentence after confessing to Heywood's murder
  • September 24: Wang convicted of defection, power abuse and bribe taking
  • September 28: Communist Party expels Bo

  • July 25: Bo indicted for bribery, corruption, abuse of power
  • August 22: Bo trial begins in Jinan
  • September 22: Bo sentenced to life in prison
Zhang Ming, a political science professor at People’s University in Beijing, says that cases like Bo Xilai are widespread and common knowledge in China.

“We all know that the problem comes from the system,” he said, “Why nobody stopped him when he was becoming corrupt? Why nobody checked?”

According to the recent investigations, Bo’s crimes date back more than a decade and involve abuses of power perpetrated while he was a well-known politician, climbing up the ladder of the party’s top echelons.

Online, where key words related to Bo’s case are still blocked on some microblog services, the party’s failure to act timely was perceived as unwillingness to seriously tackle the party’s internal abuses, despite public rhetoric to the contrary.

“Bo didn’t just fall out of the sky,” liberal columnist Zhao Chu wrote on his microblog account. “He climbed up to an eminent position step by step, with his wife, family members, and lackeys doing so many bad things for more than 10 years,” he added in a commentary that was reposted by thousands on Weibo, China’s most popular micro blog service.

Zhao pointed at the historical lack of accountability within the party structure as the fertile soil where officials like Bo thrive.

“The basic principles of rule of law and contemporary social norms lack in this kind of long established political culture,” Zhao wrote, “This is a reality that cannot be missed while talking about Bo’s case, and that will not fade overnight just with Bo’s downfall.”

Much of Zhao’s critique focused on the party’s failure to reckon with the Cultural Revolution, a ten-year period of great political turmoil launched by Mao Zedong in the 60s to purge disloyal officials.

Bo Xilai  

  • Father Bo Yibo was one of the founders of the People's Republic of China
  • Bo Xilai joined the Communist Party in 1980
  • Was mayor of Dailan, governor of Liaoning province and commerce minister
  • Named leader of Chongqing city in 2007 and ascended to membership in the Politburo
  • Gained prominence for launching crackdown on corruption in Chongqing
  • Expelled form Communist Party in September, 2012
  • Found guilty of bribery, corruption and abuse of power in September, 2013, sentenced to life in prison
Bo Xilai’s father, prominent politician Bo Yibo, was purged during the first phase of that sweeping political campaign. Bo Xilai, 17 years old at the time, grew up to see his father banished from political life and then reinstated after Mao’s death to his former position of vice premier.

Though many public officials persecuted during the Cultural Revolution were reinstated in the following decades, the party’s leadership has been cautious in bluntly criticizing Mao’s campaigns, and during Bo Xilai’s tenure in Chongqing it has tolerated Bo’s revival of Cultural Revolution’s themes.

On Saturday, Wang Xuming, a well known publisher and former spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Education, called Bo’s controversial campaigns against crime and to revive Mao era sentiments in Chongqing a farce, and pointed at the larger effect Bo’s downfall is having on the Chinese political system.

“The prestige and trust of people in the party and in the government is ruined yet again,” he wrote and added a call for deeper political reform to regain people’s trust.

Official reports of Bo Xilai’s long-time corruption come as Beijing is preparing to select the group of leaders that will rule the country in the coming ten years. Among the most likely candidates for powerful seats in the politburo, many are princelings, descendants of elderly party leaders still celebrated in China for their past contribution to the country’s political system.

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Comment Sorting
by: Wangchuk from: NYC
October 06, 2012 1:09 AM
Corruption helped bring down the KMT. Corruption helped bring down the USSR. Corruption will contribute to the downfall of the CCP. One-party states cannot exist past 70 years or so.

by: aztec69 from: San Diego, CA, USA
October 02, 2012 2:14 AM
Which is worse in a nation's leadership? Corruption, like in China; Stupidity, like in the USA; or Incompetence, like in Greece.

by: Hunn from: China
September 30, 2012 3:25 PM
Toyko, please do not tell people that China is for the Arabs, please, China is for Israel, we learn all about Israel in our schools, we admire very good Israel. it is not productive for Japanese people to claim Israel to themselves exclusively. Jerusalem is our city on the hill too...

by: Bureaucratic China
September 30, 2012 3:39 AM
China is the world's second biggest economy while most of its people are still poor,uneducated,backward and systematically brainwashed.This is all due to years of abuse of powers and corruption.The communist cadres are supposed to be the Servants of the common people,on the contrary they are actually the Masters who have climbed to all the high ranking,powerful and profitting positions through family connections.The oncoming Party General Conference in November is just a farce and public propaganda.The next line of Communist leaders has been decided and they would go on sharing all the powers,wealth and glamour at the expenses of the poor,working class Chinese.When there is wealth and luxury,they get no share of it.When there are conflicts and wars,they would be the first ones to go,fighting and dying in the name of Communism and National Territorial Integrity.By handing out suspended sentences is an indication of government condonement.That means crimes committed by the priviledged officials would still go on unpunished and this whole thing would start all over again

by: Toyko from: Japan
September 30, 2012 12:44 AM
Chinese corruption is renowned throughout our region. its like China is for the Arabs and Japan is for Israel.
In Response

by: lxlhst from: china
October 01, 2012 2:52 AM
Long live China

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