Bo Xilai

Fall of Bo Xilai could boost progress of political reform, say analysts

The worst corruption case in decades has shown up flaws as never before in the one-party system, and may spur reform, analysts say

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 3:28pm

The leadership's handling of the Bo Xilai saga invites public scepticism about the one-party system and the legitimacy of its rule, some analysts say.

But a thorough exposé of the worst scandal in decades could help foster political reform after the new leadership is installed in November, with some saying the latest developments are a sign of victory for the reformist camp.

Zhang Lifan, a political affairs analyst, said: "Senior party figures have been convicted of corruption and other wrongdoings before, but it is extremely rare for one to be accused of serial crimes."

A statement released on Friday by the decision-making Politburo said Bo had repeatedly "violated party discipline" over a career dating to his days as mayor of the northeast port city of Dalian from 1993 to 2001. The violations continued through his time as governor of Liaoning province, as commerce minister and as party chief in Chongqing.

Analysts agreed that the Bo saga had shed more light than any previous case on the deep-rooted flaws in the one-party rule system.

Zhang Ming, a political scientist and commentator with Renmin University, said: "The effort to disgrace Bo could foster deeper scepticism among the public over the system and worsen the ideological crisis among party members, despite the leadership's intent to crack down on corruption, with no mercy shown even to once-favoured officials and 'princelings'."

China has generated vast wealth through market reforms. But when riches are amassed in a one-party system, there is opportunity for corruption.

Bo, the once-swaggering populist of Chinese politics, has been expelled from the Communist Party, stripped of all public offices and will face the most severe criminal charges that any ousted official has yet received.

Yuan Weishi, a historian and philosopher, said the party would face trouble in silencing critics who were claiming that it has only recently awoken to Bo's crimes.

"Why has he been engaged in such evil for so long and wha on earth nurtures that behaviour?" asked Yuan, who is the former dean of Zhongshan University's Dr Sun Yat-sen College.

Zhang Lifan agreed and said people would think that at every step in his career Bo had been violating discipline. "They will ask, 'how did he climb so high?'" Zhang Lifan said.

Bo's political demise was triggered in February when his police chief and former right-hand man, Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in Chengdu . It ended a career some thought could have won Bo a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee.

The official statement suggested that Bo's trial would cover corrupt activities spanning his two-decade career.

The analysts agreed that the exposure of Bo's misconduct and the crisis of political legitimacy it triggered would have profound implications for China's future.

Zhang Lifan said that in the worst scenario, the public would wonder what was in the past of all 24 Politburo members.

"The fact that the political system has been thrown into turmoil by the worst scandal since the communists took over will nevertheless trigger louder calls for meaningful reform of the one-party rule system, which is obviously the root of Bo's reckless behaviour," Zhang Ming said.

"Public awareness will help reformist forces in their drive to push ahead long-stalled and highly anticipated political restructuring. Such aspirations will gather momentum after the 18th party congress," Yuan said.