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Examining Bo Xilai's Indictment

3 MINS READJul 26, 2013 | 20:00 GMT
On July 24, Bo Xilai's indictment was finally announced. He is charged with bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. The trial date has not been set, although many are speculating that it will be held in August in order to wrap this up before the Communist Party's fall plenum. The trial and conviction of Bo Xilai, a top leader that was at one time slated for a position on the Politburo Standing Committee, will finally put an end to the drama that started in February 2012 when Wang Lijun, Bo's former police chief in Chongqing, fled to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. The Bo scandal shook the Communist Party prior to the power transition late last year, shedding light on the internal political struggles, which are usually kept behind closed doors. Not only did the scandal divide the leadership, but it also sparked a debate on the direction of political and economic reform. After all, Bo's Chongqing model of development, emphasizing the economic viability of the interior as opposed to the traditional export-oriented coastal model, was one that in as late as 2011 was heralded as a success by the central leadership itself. Now that Xi Jinping has officially taken on the reins of power, he has visibly sought to curb corruption in an effort to bolster the Party's image and restore public confidence. Just this week, he announced his latest move to stem corruption and excess by halting the building of government offices for five years. Similarly, he came into office vowing to crack down on the lavish spending on banquets and other government events. And of course, the Western press is replete with stories of the corruption crackdown on GlaxoSmithKline and other foreign pharmaceutical companies operating in China. The indictment of Bo is another highly visible example of Xi's campaign to take down, as they are saying in the Chinese press, both "flies" and "tigers." The Xi administration will use this indictment to exemplify its success in taking down even the biggest of tigers, even though the Bo drama started almost a year before Xi took on the mantle of power. With the slowdown of the economy taking center stage, a lot of attention on the Bo affair has faded away, much to the benefit of the central government. While Xi wants to spotlight his stance on corruption, there is still lingering support for Bo, who spearheaded Chongqing's impressive growth, cracked down on organized crime and was known for harkening back to Mao and a red culture. Oddly enough, Xi has spent this week also memorializing the late founder of China's Communist Party, calling for the younger generation to be given Maoist ideological indoctrination. Mao remains a powerful, if controversial, figure that leaders like Bo, and now Xi, use to drum up popular and unifying sentiment. Xi is still in the process of consolidating power, and rifts between conservatives and reformists remain. The economic slowdown not only sheds light on the weaknesses of China's economic growth model but also threatens its political foundations. With this unstable mix, the central government is hoping to finally put an end to the Bo drama before the Communist plenum in the fall, where the party will tackle difficult economic issues. In the meantime, Mao will continue to grab a few headlines as the Party looks for nationalist symbols to unify a country under increasing strain.

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