Bo Xilai

Bo's axing seen as liberal coup

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 April, 2012, 12:00am


Related topics

The central party leadership's decision to expel Bo Xilai on Tuesday night was a calculated move to stanch speculation about discord among the party's closed and secretive leadership and ensure a smooth transition of power in the months ahead, analysts say.

The decision indicated that the party's liberal wing had gained the upper hand over conservatives, the analysts say. Some suggest it might herald a new period of political reform in the one party-ruled nation.

'This is important indeed,' said Steve Tsang, professor of contemporary Chinese studies and director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham in Britain, of the decision to oust Bo from the 25-member ruling politburo and the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, professor of political science at City University of Hong Kong, said the swift decision aimed to put an end to persistent rumours and speculation that the party leadership was grappling with one of its worst scandals in years just months before the party congress.

'Certainly, it was not acceptable to allow this situation to continue for too long as it would damage domestic and international perceptions of the leadership transition at the 18th national congress of the party,' Cheng said.

Tsang agreed that the leadership's move was directed at ending speculation over the Bo case, as the leadership had appeared divided over how to deal with the controversial Chongqing party chief. 'This is the most important implication for me,' Tsang said.

Above all, the leadership is eager to achieve political stability and present an image of consensus in the run-up to the crucial party congress this autumn and the once-in-a-decade power transition. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao and many of the Politburo and nine-man Standing Committee will retire.

Cheng said that the earlier these matters were resolved, the stronger Hu and Wen's leadership would be in the run-up to the party congress.

The decision 'appears to represent the leadership reaching an agreement that it must be seen to hang together in the run-up to the leadership succession,' Tsang said.

But Tsang also questioned whether the leadership could really put an end the to rumour mill as Bo's demise came as a huge shock and was undertaken by a normally ultra-cautious regime.

'Will this put an end to all the speculation that arose since the Bo case came to light?' Tsang asked. 'I wouldn't bet on that yet. But it is a significant move that will take a lot of wind out of the sails of many recent rumours.'

While most analysts agree the latest move effectively ended the political career of Bo, who until recently was a strong candidate to join the Standing Committee, they also believe the liberal wing has emerged victorious over the conservatives.

'All the actions in the past month have confirmed that the party liberals now have the upper hand in the political bargaining process,' said Zhang Ming, a professor of political science at Renmin University.

Hu Xingdou, an economist at Beijing University of Technology, said the recent developments were the 'greatest ever setback' for the 'princelings' (the children of party leaders) and extreme leftists (old school communists) in the party. Bo is the son of Bo Yibo, one of the 'nine immortals' from the party's legendary early years, and his spectacular rise as a successful leader with anti-corruption credentials was also accompanied by the flamboyant use of Maoist propaganda and advocacy of the Great Helmsman's repressive methods of dealing with dissent.