Bo Xilai

Bo Xilai 薄熙来

In Detention


Had been tipped for the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012. Now due to stand trial.

Bo Xilai


Pronunciation: Bwoh Shee-lye. (Bo is like “born” without the rn) soundbite
Born: 1949. A “princeling” (son of Bo Yibo who was a revolutionary hero, but thought to have ousted Hu Yaobang so not popular).
Education: BA in History, MA in journalism.
Career: Sacked as Party Secretary of Chongqing and stripped of his Politburo position.
Prospects: Was known to be highly ambitious and had been touted as likely to join Politiburo Standing Committee before his removal from all positions in April 2012 (see below).
Relevance to Tibet: None, but had been considered a possible Politburo Standing Committee member in 2012.

Standing in the Party and Career Highlights:

Previously a member of the 24-person Politburo and, until March/April 2012, had been seen as a rival to the heirs apparent, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang. Despite being a princeling he began work at the bottom in a poor, remote province. Rose in Party and government ranks; Minister of Commerce 2004-07 ( – an atypical Minister’s website). There were rumours he would be promoted to Vice Premier in 2007, but that this promotion was opposed by his immediate superior, Wu Yi. Bo was hugely famous as mayor of Chongqing for his ongoing crackdown on the triads (mafia) and on government officials colluding with them.

Bo attracted significant media coverage in 2010 and 2011 for his campaigns to promote Maoist ideology and the singing of revolutionary songs in Chongqing. Although Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao refrained from comment, Xi Jinping was fullsome in his praise during a visit to Chongqing in December 2011, fuelling speculation that Xi and Bo were building alliances for the post-2012 era. Propaganda chief Li Changchun also visited Chongqing in August 2010 and praised the singing campaign, leading to rumours that Bo might be eyeing Li’s position in the Politburo Standing Committee (Insiders previously thought Bo had his sights on Zhou Yongkang’s position, overseeing law and order).

On 15 March 2012, Bo Xilai was removed from his position as Party Secretary of Chongqing, following a month of speculation after the apparent attempted defection to the United States of Chongqing’s former police chief Wang Lijun. See BBC report. In April 2012, Bo was stripped of his Politburo position and placed under investigation for disciplinary offenses. His wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of ordering the murder of British businessman, Neil Heywood.

Personal information:

During Cultural Revolution (aged 17) Bo was imprisoned with his family for 5 years; 5 more years in a labour camp, father (Bo Yibo, who served as Vice Premier) tortured, mother killed. One of seven siblings, all or most of whom live abroad – one sister is U.S. citizen. Married to a prominent lawyer, Gu Kailai (first Chinese lawyer to win a public case in the U.S). Son was first mainland Chinese to attend Harrow; currently at Oxford and a fixture on Chinese celebrity websites. Bo is 6’1” tall and speaks fluent English. A People’s Daily poll named Bo Man of the Year in 2010. He is currently being sued in US and elsewhere by Falun Gong for supporting torture.

Quotations By/Comments About (prior to downfall)

  • Wikipedia: Known for his good looks, articulate speech, open-minded work ethic, and a generally liberal outlook, Bo’s phenomenal rise …has been of great media attention and has since elevated his status to that of a political star. He has a reputation of a Kennedy- esque figure, his charisma known to media from the Mainland, Hong Kong, and even abroad.
  • Financial Times: Mr Bo’s very public battles could also shift the way politics is practised in a system dominated by back-room deals and consensus decisions. By appealing for popular support over the heads of the political elite, the charismatic and media-savvy man from Chongqing is charting new territory – call it populism with Chinese characteristics.
  • Vancouver Sun, 2007 : Bo’s problem seems to be that he is thoroughly disliked because of his arrogance and ill manners. But his ambition is massive and he might be made a vice- premier with responsibility for trade, though efforts will be made to keep him off the politburo.
  • Asia Times: China’s best-known “red texter”, sending out 13m text messages to mobile-phone users (quotes from Chairman Mao: “What really counts in the world is conscientiousness”).

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2 Responses to Bo Xilai

  1. editor says:

    China to send students to work in the countryside:
    “Thought to be behind the programme is Chongqing’s Communist Party chief Bo Xilai, widely regarded as one of China’s fast-rising politicians. Mr. Bo will likely be appointed to the Communist Party Polit Bureau’s powerful nine-member Standing Committee when the next administration takes over in 2012. Unlike many Chinese leaders who refrain from cultivating a public profile, Mr. Bo has attracted much attention for controversial political campaigns.”

  2. Pingback: Zhou Yongkang | Chinese Leaders

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