Bo Xilai’s dramatic ouster in March 2012 followed by last November’s anti-corruption pageant at the Communist Party Conference suggested that the disgraced leadership contender would be a whipping boy for the incoming Xi Jinping regime. Then, just as abruptly as he fell from power, Bo disappeared from the public eye, not just held in detention, but erased from the national discussion. It seemed that China’s new leadership team wanted to bury Bo and his saga that includes the murder of British citizen Neil Heywood and millions in misappropriated funds.
Suddenly, this week Bo was back in the spotlight. His show trial displays Bo at this iconoclastic best (or worst), apparently refusing to stick to the script of self-criticism and regret that his wife and police chief follow in exchange for relatively lenient sentences. Wherever the trial is heading, Bo seems determined not to go there quietly. Why the leadership opted to give Bo this platform to vent is hard to understand.
As I wrote in Asia Times months ago, it’s foolish to speculate on the behind the scenes machinations of Beijing’s top leadership. But it is worth watching how Bo’s trial turns out, the official line that emerges, and then look backward to try figuring out the Xi team’s motivation for giving Bo a final (?) star turn. It may simply be that China’s political system reached the stage of development where August is the silly season there, too.
Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.