This is Part I of the three-part series. Read Part ll and Part III.
Bo Xilai’s ambition for power came through even in his love poetry.
When the now-disgraced former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, was courting his first wife, Li Danyu, he wrote her a love poem.
The 26 year-old’s poem mimicked the style of Mao Zedong’s poem “Snow—To the Tune of Chin Yuan Chun.” Bo titled his poem, “Forward—To the Tune of Chin Yuan Chun.” Following the strict form of the Song Dynasty Chin Yuan Chun lyric, Bo Xilai wrote at one point, “Reading the brilliant history, [I] ask the Chinese people, who will take over the succession?”
Top to Bottom
Growing up, Bo Xilai experienced being near the top of the CCP’s hierarchy and also experienced plummeting to the bottom.
Bo Xilai was born in July, 1949, the son of one of the most powerful members of the CCP. He attended the elite No. 4 High School in Beijing.
His father, Bo Yibo, was the vice premier of the CCP State Council from 1957-1966. In the 1980s and 1990s, he came to be known as one of the eight immortals, the aged founders of the CCP who assisted Deng Xiaoping in ruling China.
But before Bo Yibo climbed back in the company of Deng to the heights of the Party, he was struck down during the Cultural Revolution. Identified in 1966 as a “capitalist roader,” Bo Yibo was accused of many crimes and spent the decade of the Cultural Revolution in prison.
His son Bo Xilai was an enthusiastic Red Guard who at one point beat his father, breaking three of his ribs, something Bo Yibo would later recall with pride as a sign Bo Xilai had what it took to succeed in the CCP.
But Bo Xilai’s fanaticism did not save him. He was eventually imprisoned and served five years, released in 1976 along with the other members of his family after the Cultural Revolution collapsed.
The cruelty Bo suffered in prison made him shady, manipulative, and tyrannical. He believed power was the only truth in this world.
When Bo got out of jail, he started working as a repairman at an auto shop, and he began courting his childhood friend Li Danyu.
In terms of status, all of the advantages were on the side of Li Danyu. Li Danyu’s father had before the Cultural Revolution been the Party secretary of Beijing. He lost that post, but did not fall as far as Bo Yibo. Li’s father was not branded an enemy of the people; he remained a “revolutionary comrade.”
Li Danyu herself was a military doctor at the prestigious 301 People’s Liberation Army Hospital in Beijing—the hospital where all of the Party leaders were treated.
For his part, Bo Xilai was handsome, charming and, like Li herself, intelligent. Bo won his suit and married the plain-looking and hot tempered Li in September, 1976.
Gu Kailai Appears
Bo Yibo was rehabilitated in 1978, and Bo Xiali and Li Danyu moved into Zhongnanhai, the CCP leadership’s compound in Beijing.
Bo Xilai was admitted to study history at Peking University and then became a graduate student at the newly established Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, meant to be the premier institution for research in the social science in the People’s Republic of China.
On their 4-year-old son’s birthday, June 20, 1981, Bo and Li’s marriage experienced a drastic change. As Bo Xilai cried holding his wife and son in his arms, he announced he was divorcing Li, because he had “no feelings for her anymore.”
No one knows when exactly Gu Kailai barged into Bo’s life.
Gu Kailai’s father was the deputy director of the PLA General Political Department, second secretary of the Xinjiang District—he was the Party’s second in command in the army based in Xinjiang.
In 1978 Gu Kailai enrolled at Peking University School of Law, then transferred to International Politics and studied for 3 years to get her Master’s. She is 11 years younger than Bo Xilai.
Gu Kailai tells the outside world that the first time she met Bo was an accident, after he arrived at Jin County in Liaoning. This is no doubt a lie. Many of Gu’s classmates from Peking University confirm that Gu and Bo already had a relationship while they were still at Peking University.
In addition, Li Danyu told the New York Times that she began accusing Gu of being the third party in the divorce Bo Xilai had requested and thus guilty of damaging a military marriage, which is illegal in China. In 1984 Li was forced by Bo Yibo’s pressure to divorce Bo Xilai officially. In 1986, Gu Kailai married Bo Xilai.
Bo Xilai had become mayor of Dalian in 1993, and Gu Kailai opened a law firm in 1995. Any enterprises that wanted to invest in Dalian had to follow an unspoken rule and hire lawyers from Gu’s firm for consulting. Consulting fees could run into the millions, but only in this way could the firms be sure of having Bo’s support.
Around this time, Bo and Gu met the English businessman Neil Heywood, who had come to Dalian looking to get wealthy. Heywood not only helped their son Bo Guagua with English, but started to help them launder money overseas.
Stuck as Mayor
Bo looked to move up from Dalian and thought he should move up. He was highly regarded, popular, politically savvy, and capable. He had brought new construction to Dalian and beautified the city with parks and boulevards. Moreover, his father as one of the eight immortals was extremely well connected.
At the 15th Party Congress in 1997 Bo did not get a single vote for a seat on the Central Committee. Nor was he promoted to a province-level position somewhere—longstanding CCP officials of Bo’s rank are often moved from one spot to another, climbing the ladder of promotion, but not Bo.
What disappointed Bo most was that his family had a special relationship with Party head Jiang Zemin, but that relationship wasn’t paying off.
In the spring of 1995, then-paramount leader Deng Xiaoping received a letter from seven officials at the provincial level reporting on Jiang. Deng gave it to Bo’s father, Bo Yibo, and asked him to take care of it.
Bo’s father took the letter to Jiang. Jiang was terrified after reading the letter. Bo’s father had always wanted his son to be promoted to the top of the political chain and he made a deal with Jiang. Bo’s father agreed to conceal Jiang’s crimes, and Jiang agreed to promote Bo Xilai.
But Jiang was not holding up his end of the bargain. Then, in 1999, Bo Xilai found a way to get Jiang’s enthusiastic support.
Next ... Jiang launched the persecution of Falun Gong