ANALYSIS

Bo Xilai

Media denounces Bo, urges party unity after charges filed

Indictment sends a strong signal that provincial officials must obey orders from Beijing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 4:24am

Bo Xilai's indictment yesterday was an effort by the Communist Party to both show its commitment to fighting corruption and remind ambitious provincial officials that orders flow from Beijing.

Minutes after bribery, embezzlement and abuse-of-power charges were filed against the former Chongqing party chief in Jinan, Shandong, yesterday, state media outlets went into overdrive denouncing Bo, praising the legal action and calling for party unity.

It has kept a solemn promise in front of the 1.3 billion Chinese people to catch high-ranking 'tigers' as well as low-ranking 'flies'

The well-orchestrated coverage cast the charges against Bo - the highest-ranking official to face prosecution in five years - as proof of the party's commitment to go after "tiger and flies", a phrase President Xi Jinping has used amid criticism that his recent anti-graft campaign has been too focused on low-level officials.

"It has kept a solemn promise in front of the 1.3 billion Chinese people to catch high-ranking 'tigers' as well as low-ranking 'flies'," said the People's Daily, the party's main mouthpiece.

But a commentary by the state news agency Xinhua hinted why Bo - the ambitious son of a revolutionary elder - had to be brought down as he was attempting to build his own power base.

"China's historical experience has shown over and over again that the nation's long-term stability can only be secured by protecting the authority of the central leadership," the article said. The article also called for the people who were once under the administration of local leaders being penalised by the central government for corruption to support Beijing's decision.

Observers argue that many leaders could be accused of crimes similar to Bo in a country where corruption is so rampant that Xi has warned it threatens the party's hold on power.

Kerry Brown, director of the University of Sydney's China Studies Centre, said it appears that Bo's real crime was that he emerged as a challenger to well-established authority with his high-flying triad crackdown and campaign pushing Maoist nostalgia.

"There is this major theme of how unity between the [central leadership] and the provinces is sacrosanct, that provinces like Chongqing cannot become personal fiefdoms," Brown said.

In the wake of the charges, the People's Daily and other media appeared eager to mend ties between Beijing and Bo's former power base in Chongqing.

Zhang Ming , a political scientist from Renmin University, said: "There is still a question left unanswered - whether there was a checks-and-balance system to prevent him [Bo] from going too far."