In Beijing No.4 Middle School, he shouted ¡°Let us lead the future of China!¡± with other children of high ranking Chinese officials, face flushed red with excitement; At his send-off party, where he left Dalian to take over the governorship of Liaoning Province, he lifted up his arms and chanted ¡°thank you all¡± to the audience, with groups of servicemen surrounding him. In Chongqing, he spoke fervently and confidently to the media and politicians from around the world, even addressing some central leaders affectionately by their first names at times.
In all these cases, ¡°he¡± is Bo Xilai, one of the ¡°princelings¡± of Chinese politics who grew up in Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership compound. He is a high-profile figure and an aspiring plotter, with incomparable political capital, as well as adept skills in both public and private relations, which many common Chinese people have never dreamed of, and hardly can pursue. In the political arena, he had made maximum use of the western-style of political campaigning through media marketing and political speeches, gaining him a large audience beyond Chongqing¡¯s borders. All these factors contributed to Bo¡¯s rising role within the conservative CPC, yet he ended up as a pariah.
The political start of Bo
Bo was born three months before the 1949 establishment of the People¡¯s Republic of China. He grew up in Zhongnanhai, and received his secondary education in Beijing No. 4 Middle School, a time-honored, well-located school exclusive to the princelings at that time. In 1978, Bo enrolled in Peking University for his undergraduate studies. Astonishingly, just one year later, he turned to pursue a master¡¯s degree in international journalism in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and graduated from there in 1982. Following graduation, he began to work in the General Office of the Communist Party of China¡¯s (CPC) Central Committee.
Under the special political and economic circumstances in the early 1980s, the children of higher ranking officials also faced a major career choice between business and politics. Given his two years¡¯ working experience in the General Office, Bo chose to continue his political career and was ¡°sent afar¡± to become deputy secretary of the Jinxian County Committee in Liaoning Province. From then on, he shot up the political ladder and was promoted to Governor of Liaoning Province in 2000. Within18 years, Bo had risen from a university graduate to provincial official, which would take 30 years on average for an ordinary CPC official, according to statistics from takungpao.com.
A scholar once compared the competition in CPC officialdom to rock climbing. In this metaphor, Bo is a selected player secured with lifeline, which was guaranteed to move promptly upwards without any unexpected fall. Such a start of Bo¡¯s political career had laid the foundation for his high-profile governing style.
Bo¡¯s ¡°Western Politics¡±
During his days in Dalian, football games and glamorous mounted policewomen had helped Bo enhance his popularity. ¡°Dalian people are great lovers of football. Dalian is the City of Football that makes China proud!¡± Bo said under a shower of confetti, with thunderous applause from thousands of audience. This scene took place in October 2000 at Dalian Stadium when Shide, a Dalian-based football team won its fifth championship and Bo firmly shook the hand of each player on the field., Rumor from within the football world also had it that in order to lure the best players in China to Dalian, Bo once made personal phone calls to talk those potential talents into joining Shide. Every time the team returned in triumph, Bo would pick them up at the airport. That was how Bo gained fame as the ¡°football mayor¡±. Besides, Bo had also backed a number of other organizations and groups that drew national media attention, including China¡¯s first peasant orchestra and China¡¯s first group of mounted policewomen , both originating in Dalian.
During his days at the Ministry of Commerce, Bo¡¯s sound English proficiency, tough appearance and firm political stances won him the reputation as ¡°China¡¯s Name Card¡±. Armed with fluent English, Bo had deeply impressed foreign visitors and officials. One of his speeches was always remembered: during a foreign visit in May 2004, Bo told a group of European officials that ¡°There are 44,000 babies born and 1.6 million pigs consumed each day in China. Our premier is not only obliged to provide education to the young, jobs to adults, but is also responsible for taking care of the elderly. He is really devoted.¡± This was taken as a smart bit of flattery directed at Wen Jiabao without any tint of bureaucracy. Bo also kept his iron grip on the management of the ministry. According to some who had had negotiating experience with him, Bo always called in person to contact the vice-ministerial ranking officials, who had to keep themselves ¡°on standby¡± virtually 24 hours a day as they would never know when they would be called. With an outstanding height of1.85m, tough persona, and fluent English, Bo won praise from the national media as a competent and dedicated politician, called by the state-run Renmin.com and Xinhua.com as the ¡°Star Minister¡± and ¡°China¡¯s name Card.¡±
During his days in Chongqing, the so-called ¡°chanting the Red and crack down the Black£¨³ªºì´òºÚ£©¡± (a campaign focused on chanting Maoist songs and cracking down organized crimes) had provided Bo with a broader platform to build foreign connections. In June 2011, Dr. Kissinger, the ¡°old friend of the Chinese people,¡± attended the Chongqing Red Song Gathering and praised that ¡°to my delight, I have seen dramatic changes in Chongqing.¡± Bo made an impromptu speech afterwards to express his gratitude to Dr. Kissinger and later tapped into the emotional aspect of the gathering in retrospect of all the Chinese top leaders starting from Mao Zedong, Besides Dr. Kissinger, a number of other foreign politicians had been invited to the city during Bo¡¯s four years in Chongqing, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien as well as current Canadian PM Stephen Harper, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin among others. Foreign organizations and associations such as the World Bank were also high on Bo¡¯s contact list.
In terms of media, Bo was also an adroit user of these party-run ¡°mouthpieces¡±. A series of articles with the byline of ¡°Zhu XIAO¡± were first published on the front page of Chongqing Daily after Bo took office in Chongqing, featuring Bo¡¯s speeches made in various conferences and meetings. Usually, these speeches were published in their entirety in the form of subtitles. For instance, the lengthy report about a plenary meeting of the municipal CPC committee revealed almost the full text of Bo¡¯s speech in 14 subtitles, quoting Bo numerous times. The subtitles were normally propaganda pieces such as ¡°The people are discerning. They know for sure and have the say on whether an official has virtues, talents and achievements.¡± ¡°The commitment of the law enforcement department is to frighten the villains, to help the people and to discipline themselves.¡± Similar speeches were also given in other seminars and conferences in Chongqing. Such reporting style of the Chongqing Daily under the rule of Bo Xilai is quite unique among the CPC newspapers at all levels.
Cheers from the crowds, handshakes with the masses, political presentations and personal media presence all the hallmarks of modern political competitions were mobilized to the largest degree, just like how election campaigns in the US and Europe are run.
When ¡°Western Politics¡± Encounters ¡°Bo-ist Logic¡±
On September 28th, the politburo made the decision to expel Bo from the Communist Party and transfer him to the judiciary branch. At this point, the child of Zhongnanhai was no longer the comrade of the party. The princeling would most likely end up in prison.
The aforesaid aspects about Bo¡¯s political career showed clearly how he had climbed the political ladder from Liaoning province to the Ministry of Commerce, from a local official to a minister and to a politburo member. Analyzed in a single way, Bo¡¯s leadership style successfully interprets the notion of politics as a sport in the Western sense. His articulation of personalized political language, sound interaction with the media, openness to present himself in front of the people, to gather public opinions and to make use of the media are all cases in point. However, when this classic political game of the West encountered the Bo-ist logic, what we have seen is a dichotomous complex rather than a simple fact. The cheers are the result of political mobilization rather than grassroots admiration, the political presentation was based on Bo¡¯s personal maneuvering of rising up to top leadership positions rather than on cooperation and consensus among like-minded politicians, and the media continued to fulfill its historical propaganda mission as a mouthpiece of the party in mobilizing the mass and flattering the officials using the vocabulary we have long been tired of.
As a result, Bo was expelled from the Party, dismissed from the position, and referred to judicial organs.
Translator: Chen Hong
Chen Hong is an undergraduate student majoring in Diplomacy at China Foreign Affairs University
Editors: Xiaoyuan Li and Andrew Dirks
Original Author: news.wenweipo.com
Original Publication Date: September 28, 2012