Bo Xilai Fired

March 14, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Bo Xilai on March 13 in Beijing, China, two days before he was replaced
Bo Xilai on March 13 in Beijing, China, two days before he was replaced as the Chinese Communist Party's Chongqing Municipality Secretary. Politburo member Zhang Dejiang will be assuming the post. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Bo Xilai is Party chief of Chongqing no longer, according to the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily. The public destruction of Bo’s career—coming on the heels of a press conference held by Premier Wen Jiabao where Bo was publicly rebuked—is a dramatic climax to a political power struggle that first burst into the open last month when Bo’s lieutenant sought refuge at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. The dissident news website Boxun reported Wang accused Bo of plotting a coup to overthrow the next presumptive head of the CCP.

Click this tag to read The Epoch Times’ collection of articles on the Chinese Regime in Crisis. Intra-CCP politics are a challenge to make sense of, even for veteran China watchers. Here we attempt to provide readers with the necessary context to understand the situation.

A People’s Daily notice indicated that Bo’s forced retirement was first announced by Wen who, responding to a question from a Reuters journalist, said, “The current Chongqing City Committee and government needs to self-reflect, and earnestly learn lessons from the Wang Lijun incident.”

Bo will be replaced by Zhang Dejiang, a member of the Politburo, and son of a former chief of staff of an artillery force. Zhang was a fixer for current Party chief Hu Jintao after the Wenzhou high-speed rail disaster.

The news of Bo’s job change was presented in a single sentence by Xinhua, the Communist Party’s news agency.

Predictably, the news set off a firestorm of discussion on Sina’s microblog service. One news item about the matter was forwarded over 45,000 times within 45 minutes.

Wen Jiabao, in his news conference, said that “Party Central pays close attention to this, and immediately tasked relevant departments with a special investigation. The investigation has made progress. We will go according to facts and the law, and strictly deal with the case according to the law.”

It is unclear what charges may be levied against Bo, but frequently in China “investigations” into corruption are used as covers for political struggle. In the view of many longtime observers of the Communist Party, Bo had been too flagrant in his attempt to challenge the status quo leadership, touting a “Chongqing model” that involved even-more-than-usual state involvement in the economy, neo-Maoist revivalism, and brutal crackdowns on those alleged of being associated with “the mafia.” The latter term was often used simply as a convenient label to dispose of political enemies, or to implicate businessmen, confiscate their assets, and split the spoils, according to critics. 

Before his career went down in flames, Bo was attempting to point to his apparent successes in mass mobilization and exhibitionist communism in Chongqing to bolster his chances at getting a seat in the Politburo Standing Committee, the group of generally nine men that rule China. Rumors also circulated in recent weeks that he was planning a coup with the backing of security czar Zhou Yongkang.

Bo had been sent to Chongqing in the first place in an attempt to make him keep a lower profile, after he was tainted for being repeatedly sued by Falun Gong practitioners outside of China. Bo was an early and enthusiastic participant in the brutal campaign against the spiritual practice, beginning in 1999 under the orders of then Party-chief Jiang, after having been led to believe that he would gain political capital for brutalizing believers. His former right-hand-man, Wang Lijun, is thought to have become heavily involved in the harvesting of organs from living Falun Gong practitioners, something that, if true, Bo would almost certainly have known about.

Shortly Following the Bo Xilai announcement, Xinhua said that Wang Lijun, former deputy-mayor and police chief of Chongqing, would be removed from his post. He Ting, deputy-governor of Qinghai Province and head of the public security apparatus there, was sent to fill the role.

Chinese netizens appear to be relishing the excitement of a very public political bloodletting in the recent turn of events. One widely forwarded remark observed that: “All this proves one principle: most of the rumors on Weibo were correct.”