China Power

Bo Xilai-Rock Star

The National People’s Congress gets a little star power in the form of a regional party boss.

The ongoing National People’s Congress is usually viewed as a grey, scripted and uninspiring affair. Probably fairly in many instances. But this year the meeting got a little excitement in the form of the gang-busting, Communist Party secretary of Chongqing Municipality, Bo Xilai.

About as close to a political rock star as China’s ruling party gets, Bo, the son of Bo Yibo (one of the Eight Elders of Communist Party of China), was actually imprisoned as a teenager along with members of his family during the Cultural Revolution.

Widely regarded as articulate, good-looking and a strong performer in front of the camera, Bo made his political name as a long-serving official in the economic hub of Dalian and is a Kennedy-esque, charismatic political star known for his anti-corruption drive.

However, his political reputation is a little less stellar and his political prospects became less certain on the death of his father in 2007. As Communist Party boss of Chongqing (located in the country’s south-west), he’s far from the country’s political centre. And, although he’s been successful in exploiting the media to boost his personal popularity, he risks a backlash from colleagues who might suspect Bo, seen as a contender for the Politburo’s Standing Committee for the 2012 leadership transition, of self-serving grandstanding.

And it seems even the best political rock stars can hit an off-note once in a while. According to the Wall Street Journal:

‘Bo…was asked bluntly by a Taiwanese reporter whether his ambitious mafia crackdown was aimed at getting him a seat on the Politburo’s standing committee. The normally charismatic Bo looked around speechlessly for a while before replying, “This isn’t an appropriate occasion for making a show.” Bo also criticized the reporters in the room, telling them that they shouldn’t only be thinking about making a scene.