Bo Xilai, brought down in the most serious political corruption case to hit the Party in years, is now finally out. The disgraced former rising star has been expelled from the Party for taking bribes and his “grave responsibility” in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, a crime for which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted and his former right hand man, police chief Wang Lijun, was sentenced to prison for 15 years. Like Gu and Wang, the former Chongqing Party boss will now be prosecuted in court. The Party’s charges against him include maintaining “abnormal sexual relations with several women”. Interesting to see what, if anything, comes out in court about those, though they sound a bit smear-like to this Bystander. Either way, we expect a harsh sentence.
Bo’s trial would complete the ring fencing of an inconvenient scandal that the Party’s top leadership has worked hard to present as an isolated incident, not evidence of systemic corruption and an uncomfortably common connection between wealth and power. We expect a dose of congratulatory commentary in state media commending the Party for its steadfast fight against corruption and transparency in its self-discipline.
Yet Bo’s case has provided an awkward back drop to the run up to the leadership transition that, it has now been announced, will formally start at a Party congress called for November 8th. That is a further sign that the winners and losers have been settled in the in-fighting that the rest of the world doesn’t get to see. However, the very opacity of a system in which Party, state and government are effectively one, and power is founded on personal connections and factions, has been left looking increasingly antiquated for a modern state.