China Leadership Monitor

Bo Xilai and Reform: What Will Be the Impact of His Removal?

Monday, August 6, 2012

The unexpected flight of Chongqing’s Public Security head to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu in February started an unexpected sequence of events that led to the removal of Bo Xilai, the princeling head of the Chongqing party committee, and the subsequent decision to investigate him. Depending on the outcome of that party investigation, Bo could then be subject to civil proceedings (as is almost always the case). These events have disrupted what appeared to be the smooth transition planned for the 18th Party Congress later this fall. There has been much commentary on these events, and different observers look at the significance and impact of the Bo Xilai case on Chinese politics. Looking at Bo’s unique place in the Chinese political system and at the actions taken and commentary issued by the government in Beijing, this article concludes that Beijing is taking steps to narrow the case against Bo as much as possible, presenting it as a case of violating party discipline and the law. Although this makes sense in the short run, there may be ramifications of the case that will reverberate for a long time.