Chinese Communist "princeling" Bo Xilai, expected by many to take a key leadership position in the leadership transition of 2012, was expelled from the Communist Party in September after a career that saw him as Mayor of Dalian City, Minister of Commerce and Party Chief of the Chongqing municipality. His wife Gu Kailai received a suspended death sentence in August 2012 for murdering British business partner Neil Heywood.
Bo touts 'Chongqing model' again
Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai again touted his 'Chongqing model' during a group discussion at the annual session of the National People's Congress on Monday. He had previously kept a low profile after the defection attempt last month by his former right-hand man, Wang Lijun.
Unlike at two municipal-level party meetings he held last month, in which he underscored the importance of upholding Beijing's policies without mentioning his Chongqing experiences, Bo brought up the municipality's economic achievements under his leadership since 2007 during a discussion with the Chongqing delegation.
Discussing economic figures for Chongqing for 2007-2011, Bo said: 'It's possible to have fair wealth distribution and high-quality, fast growth at the same time. This is the route Chongqing followed in these years.'
He said Chongqing's economic growth, as well as farmers' income, had roughly doubled during the five-year period, while foreign investment increased almost tenfold and overseas investment increased 100-fold.
Bo said these figures suggested that common prosperity was possible to achieve. 'While we encourage competition and recognise the income gap among residents, we also attach great importance to social equality and the lives of middle- and low-income groups,' he said.
He said a major issue was the continuation of reform policies. There had been breakthroughs in the nation's economic system during the past three decades of reform and opening up, and that should be continued.
Bo's remarks were echoed yesterday by Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan. He told China Central Television that the municipality ranked first in about 18 economic categories last year, including its 16.4 per cent economic growth.
Huang said Chongqing was particularly happy with setting the pace in three areas - its 23 per cent growth in the number of registered companies, its twofold increase in exports and imports, and its lowered Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality among all residents in a region.
The Gini coefficient for Chongqing fell from 0.438 in 2010 to 0.42 last year, Huang said. A coefficient of 1 indicates maximum inequality, with one person making all the money. This lowered number meant that as long as proper measures were taken, it would be possible to narrow the wealth gap amid a rapidly growing economy, Huang said, echoing Bo's comments.
Bo has recently been keen to prove his loyalty to the central leadership's policies, as many political watchers believe that Wang's detention could affect Bo's prospects of becoming a member of the Politburo Standing Committee at the Communist Party's congress this autumn. Wang was rumoured to have exposed corruption by Bo while seeking asylum at the US consulate in Chengdu, Sichuan, on February 6.
On February 12, Bo held a party meeting focusing on advancing scientific development, a pet theory of President Hu Jintao's . About two weeks later, Bo had another meeting about sticking to a development strategy for Chongqing that Hu revealed in 2007.
Both meetings were covered prominently by local media, and neither featured a word about the municipality's crackdown on organised crime or its promotion of revolutionary songs - two of Bo's signature campaigns that help define the so-called Chongqing model.
Professor Zhang Ming, a political analyst at Beijing's Renmin University, said that Bo was now more confident that he would not be punished as the central leadership had not appeared to target him in the wake of the Wang scandal.
'He still has some supporters,' Zhang said.