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Posts Tagged ‘Bo Xilai’

How a Ferrari Crash May Have Unsettled China’s Leadership Transition

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 5, 2012

There is still much that is unknown about the March car crash, but it seems to have caused some serious political drama.
Andy Wong / AP

ANDY WONG / AP
Ling Jihua, a loyal aide and confidante to President Hu Jintao, left, looks on as Chinese President Hu Jintao, bottom right, signs a document after attending the closing ceremony of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on March 14, 2010

During a Beijing spring filled with salacious political gossip about the downfall of senior government official Bo Xilai, the March 18 crash of a Ferrari on the outskirts of the city was just one more shocking episode in this cloistered capital. As the rumor mill in Beijing worked overtime, I heard scandalous but totally unconfirmable whispers from Chinese journalists employed at government-run publications and other well-sourced insiders. The driver of the black Italian sports car was the son of a high-ranking government official, they alleged. There were two young women in the car. Astonishingly, the ladies were not members of China’s Han ethnic majority, but Tibetans. One (or more) of the car’s occupants had perished in the crash.

Each tantalizing, unprovable detail prompted further questions. How had the son of a Communist Party official, whose salary is relatively meager, managed to acquire a Ferrari? Tibetans have been so despondent over Communist control over their land that dozens of local youngsters have self-immolated in recent months, sparking a massive security crackdown by the Chinese government. So what were members of this oft oppressed minority doing in a vehicle supposedly driven by a party scion? Read the rest of this entry »

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China: Wealth and power – It’s a family affair

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 1, 2012

The Economist | BEIJING

IN RECENT years China’s leaders have become increasingly concerned that the public’s awareness of the growing wealth gap could lead to social instability. In Beijing, displays of gratuitous overcompensation are a daily reminder that some people, in keeping with a famous dictum of Deng Xiaoping’s, have indeed got rich first. Officials last year even went so far as to try suppressing ads that promote “luxury lifestyles”—lest the have-nots be inspired to rise up and storm the local Lamborghini dealership.

Perhaps even more troubling for the Party is the surge in scepticism over how suchwealth seems to find its way into the hands of officials and their families, not to mention into those of their beloved Swiss bankers, English boarding schools and Australian estate agents. Particularly galling are the reports about the great number of officials who have taken to working “naked”. That is to say, many officials are working in China while their wives, children and, presumably, a chunk of the motherland’s money take residence overseas. A report released last year  estimated that as much as $120 billion may have been transferred abroad by corrupt officials.

The Chinese media have been given greater freedom to report on corruption and the financial shenanigans of large companies of late. Which makes it all the more striking that reporting on the business activities of the Central Committee’s wives and offspring is still strictly forbidden. Read the rest of this entry »

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Zhang Ziyi in paid sex scandal with Bo Xilai: Reports

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on May 29, 2012

Actress Zhang Ziyi is allegedly under investigation by the Chinese government for being paid to have sex with disgraced former top government official, Bo Xilai.

She is reportedly barred from leaving the country.

Hong Kong’s Apple daily and other Chinese media reported that the pair was first introduced by Bo’s associate, Xu Ming, 41, who is the founder and chairman of Dalian Shide Group.

Sources say Xu confessed to paying Zhang 6 million yuan (S$1.2 million) in 2007, to have sex with her for the first time.

He later negotiated a deal for Bo to have sex with Zhang, for 10 million yuan (S$2 million).

Reports say the 33-year-old actress slept with Bo at least 10 times between 2007 and 2011 in Beijing.

The Chinese media also estimated that Zhang’s sexual transactions with various rich and powerful figures have netted her 700 million yuan over the last 10 years.

This includes 180 million yuan in cash from Xu.

Her wealth from prostituting herself was not taxed, due to intervention from Xu and other government officials. Read the rest of this entry »

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For China, Economic Growth Doesn’t Always Equal Happiness

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on May 16, 2012

CHINA PHOTOS / GETTY IMAGES
A woman washes clothes next to a railway near a shanty town in Shenyang, China

When Bo Xilai, the rising Chinese Communist Party official who was purged in March, gave his last public comments before disappearing into detention, he was wrong about a lot of things. That bit about not being under investigation, for instance. But one line he uttered has the clear ring of truth, and it poses a serious issue for China’s leadership as it attempts to navigate this year’s political transition, the economic slowdown and the ripples loosed by Bo’s removal. Bo revealed that China’s Gini coefficient — a statistic that measures the gap between rich and poor — had entered into worrying territory. He described the number, which hasn’t been made public in over a decade, as over 0.46. Anything higher than 0.4 is considered dangerously high and capable of fueling unrest.

In Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party secretary for 4½ years, he made building economic protections like subsidized housing for the megacity’s poorest residents one of the tenets of his “Chongqing model.” The wholesale corruption he and his family have been accused of may have steered the wealth gap in the wrong direction, but Bo understood the political importance of appearing to care about the problem, just as he knew the appeal of cracking down on crime and reviving Mao-era culture.

It’s a point that many other officials seem to have missed, mindful perhaps of Deng Xiaoping’s declaration that “some will get rich first,” but forgetting the coda that their prosperity would then spread to all. China’s growth in recent decades has been astonishing and surveys like the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project have found high levels of satisfaction and optimism in China. But there is more to those numbers. A deeper examination of Chinese citizens’ levels of satisfaction indicates that while the country’s richest are increasingly content, the poor are growing more and more unhappy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Must-Reads From Around the World: April 26, 2012

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 26, 2012

PETER DEJONG/AFP/GettyImages/Pool

PETER DEJONG/AFP/GETTYIMAGES/POOL
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor takes notes at the start of the judgement hearing of his trial on charge of arming Sierra Leone’s rebels who paid him in “blood diamonds,” on April 26, 2012 at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, based in Leidschendam outside The Hague

Life For Death? – The five-year trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, accused of 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other offenses, is finally coming to a close in The Hague on Thursday, with a possible life sentence for the ousted leader. The Guardian, live-blogging the verdict from the tribunal, noted that Taylor is “clearly listening with care,” as it is read out. And judges found Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war.

New Front in Drone War – The White House expanded the authority of the Pentagon and CIA to carry out drone strikes in Yemen, which is widely believed to be a safe haven for al-Qaeda operatives, the New York Times reports. U.S. Defense Secretary LeonPanetta has defended the strategy, the Guardian says, but international legal experts argue that drone strikes amount to execution of suspects before trial, making them illegal – especially when carried out in Yemen where the U.S. is not engaged in war.

Questioning Misogyny – Following the fierce debate over its cover story, “Why Do They Hate Us?“ which casts Arab societies as deeply misogynistic, Foreign Policy shares critiques and commentary from six Muslim observers, including the senior editor of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English-language website. Also chiming in is The Atlantic’s Max Fisher, who argues that while misogyny is a problem in Arab countries, it’s not a distinctively Arab problem. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bo Xilai, China Top Politician, Stripped Of Posts As Wife Is Accused Of Murder

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 10, 2012

BEIJING — China’s ruling Communist Party suspended a high-profile politician from his remaining leadership positions Tuesday and named his wife as a suspect in the murder of a British businessman.

Announcements carried by state media said Bo Xilai has been suspended from the party’s 25-member Politburo and the larger Central Committee on suspicion of involvement in “serious discipline violations.”

Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, is being investigated for intentional homicide of a British citizen, Neil Heywood, who died in November in Chongqing, the Xinhua News Agency said. Gu and an orderly at Bo’s home have been turned over to judicial authorities, it said.

A flamboyant and telegenic politician with a populist flair, Bo is the most senior Chinese leader to be suspended from the Politburo in six years. The announcements provide details on what has been a lurid, divisive and embarrassing scandal for the leadership, bringing political infighting out of the usually closed confines of elite party politics and into public view. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Fall of Bo Xilai and the Future of Chinese Growth

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 29, 2012

MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images

MARK RALSTON / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
Bo Xilai, the charismatic but controversial Communist Party leader of China’s Chongqing municipality, was removed from his post.

The fall of Bo Xilai, the former head of the Chinese Communist Party in the sprawling mid-Western city of Chongqing, is the stuff of movies.  A member of the party elite and supposed corruption fighter who was seen to have brought order to a Blade Runner-esque sprawl with a population the size of Belgium, Bo was not only poised to enter the top rungs of the Politburo this year, he was the first Chinese celebrity politician since Deng and Mao. In a country where the Party likes to speak with one voice, and tall poppies are often cut down, he stood out. He dressed well; he cultivated the media; he had his own one page Comment and Analysis piece in the Financial Times.

But in March, he was abruptly dismissed as the Party head of Chongqing, after his police chief, Wang Lijun, sought asylum in the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, a city several hours northwest of Chongqing. Wang had provided evidence of crimes allegedly involving Bo, according to reports in the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, including murders carried out on his order. Wang also claimed that a dead British businessman, Neil Heywood, who was said to be close to Bo’s wife Gu Kailai, had been in a business dispute with her, and had been poisoned. Rather than being a tough-but-honest politician fighting corruption in China’s Wild West, a very different picture of Bo began to emerge — one of a man who his critics say was an entitled “princeling” (his father was Bo Yibo, a revolutionary general who had fought alongside Chairman Mao), and who was corrupt himself; someone willing to torture, frame, and even murder anyone who got in his way. Read the rest of this entry »

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The rise and fall of China’s Bo Xilai

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 16, 2012

By Jaime A. FlorCruz, CNN

Bo Xilai at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing this month before his sacking as Communist Party secretary of Chongqing.
Bo Xilai at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing this month before his sacking as Communist Party secretary of Chongqing
 

Editor’s note: “Jaime’s China” is a weekly column about Chinese society and politics. Jaime FlorCruz has lived and worked in China since 1971. He studied Chinese history at Peking University (1977-81) and was TIME Magazine’s Beijing correspondent and bureau chief (1982-2000).

Beijing (CNN) — “Those who win become emperors, those who lose become bandits.”

This old Chinese adage may be an apt subtitle to the political drama that has been playing in China in recent months.

It climaxed this week when Bo Xilai, a popular and polarizing politician, was dismissed as Communist Party chief of Chongqing, the biggest metropolis in China.

Bo’s dismissal is the most sensational political scandal to hit the Chinese Communist Party in recent years.

China axes Bo Xilai from Chongqing after scandal

As a son of a revolutionary veteran and an official with a solid, albeit controversial record, Bo was considered a strong contender for promotion into the Standing Committee of the party’s Politburo, whose nine members decide how to run China.

In autumn this year, the Communist Party Congress will convene in Beijing to confirm sweeping changes in this 1.37 billion-strong nation.

Held every five years, it will set national priorities and choose a new set of leaders.

The stage is set for the race to the top. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bo Xilai, Top China Communist Politician, Dismissed From Chongqing Office

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 15, 2012

BEIJING — As big city politician Bo Xilai rose to nationwide prominence with an anti-mafia crusade and mass sing-alongs of communist anthems, many of China’s leaders trekked to his metropolis approvingly. Not President Hu Jintao.

Hu’s conspicuous absence from Chongqing, one of China’s biggest cities, was telling. The charisma and self-promotion that made Bo popular with many Chinese at times alienated his political peers. On Thursday, the Communist Party sidelined Bo, removing him from his post as Chongqing’s Communist Party boss and highest-ranking official, and likely ending his chances of promotion to the highest ranks of power that seemed within grasp only months ago.

Tall and telegenic, Bo is an anomaly that proves the rule in Chinese politics.

His confidence in public, bordering on flamboyance, and his ease with the media clashed with the low-key, collegial and bland style preferred by the Chinese leadership. Ever since charismatic, populist Mao Zedong mired China in poverty and political chaos, his successors have worked to make sure no one person would dominate. Instead, rule would be by consensus among members of a collective leadership. Bo was a threat to that balance.

“This proves that the Communist Party has accomplished dominance by a bureaucratic clique, rather than dominance by a strongman,” said Wang Lixiong, an activist for democracy and minority rights in Beijing. Such unity, Wang said, means the party will continue to protect its power and not undertake meaningful democratic changes. “The Communist Party is more stable, so reform becomes more hopeless.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Chinese power politics: Bo Bo, Black Sheep

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 15, 2012

 

IN A dramatic high-level political shake-up, China used the Ides of March to announce the removal of Bo Xilai from his post as the Communist Party boss of the south-western city of Chongqing. State media reported that Mr Bo has been replaced by Zhang Dejiang, who will also retain his spot as Vice Premier of the People’s Republic.

Mr Bo was badly damaged by a scandal in which his key deputy, Chongqing’s vice mayor and its top police official, Wang Lijun, spent a full day in an American consulate last month. It was apparent that he went seeking asylum. Turned out by the Americans, Mr Wang has since been placed under investigation—leading to widespread speculation as to whether his actions had to do with corruption, political infighting, or both.

Mr Bo’s dismissal came just one day after China’s premier, Wen Jiabao, took a thinly-veiled swipe at Mr Bo during a nationally televised press conference, at the close of the annual full session of parliament. Commenting on the Wang Lijun case, Mr Wen said that Chongqing’s leaders “must reflect seriously and learn from” the episode.

Prior to that incident, Mr Bo had plausible hopes of being elevated to the Politburo’s Standing Committee, the nine-member body that effectively rules China. The Politburo’s new composition is due to be unveiled later this year at the Party Congress, an event which is held only once every five years.

It had appeared that Mr Bo might have survived the moment of crisis, when he made a very public appearance earlier during the 10-day parliamentary session. He used it to acknowledge “negligent supervision” in the matter of Wang Lijun, and also struck a populist note about China’s growing inequality. At his chaotic press event, from which hundreds of reporters were turned away, he said that China’s Gini coefficient had risen above 0.46. The central government has not reported its Gini figures, a standard measure of inequality, for years. Mr Bo said that “if only a few people are rich then we are capitalists, we’ve failed.” Read the rest of this entry »

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