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A Leadership Shake-Up In China

A top official in China stripped of his posts.  A political rift opens in China’s leadership.  We look at the biggest crisis in Chinese politics since Tiananmen.

In this March 13, 2012 file photo, Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai attends the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, China. (AP)

In this March 13, 2012 file photo, Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai attends the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, China. (AP)

From half a world away, rising China can look like a monolithic juggernaut with an unshakable Communist Party cadre at the top leading a billion-plus people on to glory.

But in the last month, an incredible story of deep party division, corruption, poisoning and murder – of ideological warfare and eye-popping skullduggery – has put that whole picture of party unity and Chinese stability, at the very top,  in question.

The career of “new left” neo-Maoist princeling Bo Xi Lai is in tatters.  Deep national tensions are exposed.  Outcome, uncertain – and important to the world.

This hour, On Point:  uproar in China, and the story of Bo Xi lai.

-Tom Ashbrook


Evan Osnos, writer for the New Yorker based in Beijing

Dali Yang, faculty director at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing. He also directs the University of Chicago’s Chicago’s Confucius Institute, which offers Chinese language instruction and supports research on China. Author of “Remaking the Chinese Leviathan: Market Transition and the Politics of Governance in China.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “The governing Communist Party sought to close ranks swiftly on Wednesday, hoping to move beyond a mortifying scandal that has exposed a leadership split and threatens to lay bare corruption in the party’s highest ranks. ”

The Wall Street Journal “The day before his death in the fog-shrouded Chinese city of Chongqing, Neil Heywood sensed that something was amiss. The British businessman had been summoned on short notice to a meeting in Chongqing in early November with representatives of the family of Bo Xilai, the local Communist Party chief, according to an account by a friend whom Mr. Heywood contacted at the time. Mr. Heywood told the friend he was ‘in trouble.’”


The East is Red

There is No New China Without the Communist Party

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  • Anonymous

    Will power struggles in China undermine the vigor and efficiency of their highly successful systematic industrial predation on the world? 

  • Patrik

    This appears to me as just another growing pain in a series of them, past and yet to come.  Most emerging superpowers throughout the ages have had them, China will be no different.

    I have not heard any other major news show/station discuss such an important, focused, issue.  Another thumbs up to NPR.

  • Anonymous

    If the new Chinese leaders study the U.S., they can learn how to create a system which gives some outward appearances of democracy, but which still leaves the corporate-oligarch-political system in charge.

    • Ayn Marx 666

      Agreed…but having lived during a time in which our owners felt it necessary to mystify their power more than they do now, I can say that it both felt better and was substantively better than today (modulo our neat, new, toys).

  • Bob


    • Ayn Marx 666

          “You aren’t telling the whole story,”
      be a decent translation of that?

  • Terry Tree Tree

    It will be interesting to see how this develops.

  • Robbie

    He had more assets and income than his $25k per year salary could justify. His son here in Cambridge lives like a king and attends Harvard KSG. The suspicious death of the English citizen was very suspicious. 

  • Gerald Fnord

    I’m sure the official in question was at least a little corrupt, but I can’t shake the snap-judgement that he was less so than the men attacking him.

    I’m thinking of how Eliot Spitzer both invited his downfall by break laws, but was also the target of the corrupt and powerful men he had opposed and their employees in the N.Y. State government.

    • Robbie

       “a little corrupt” enough to buy his son a Ferrari and live in a palace. lol

      • Gerald Fnord

        On the scale of Chinese corruption, that sounds about right.

        • Robbie

           Exactly.. but his son lives here in Cambridge and sure lives in the lap of luxury.

  • AC

    yes men

  • Savishi

    Bo Xilai reminded the high level politician of culture revolution. Premium Wen Jiabao openly critiqued the so called “chongqing” model in March for its wrong history track. Bo may look charismatic, but he’s a disaster for Chinese people.

  • Gerald Fnord

    Petty correction:  J.F.K. was on the right of the Democratic Party, for example much more interested in military power and much less interested in Civil Rights than Adlai Stevenson or L.B.J….and he won largely by being more bristlingly militarist than Nixon, who vowed never to get out-conservatived again.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.kollars Chuck Kollars

      I fear the picture of John-Kennedy-as-flaming-liberal is a society-wide collective hallucination, not just something ginned up by a few radio pundits.
      “Why?” that is I don’t exactly know. He and his wife were “stylish” and “trendy”, and he pushed back his generals rather than fight a war  …maybe those few things were enough to earn him a “general political liberal” halo even though it wasn’t really deserved.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.kollars Chuck Kollars

    I’m having a very hard time understanding the “sides”.

    I think I’ve gleaned that our automatic association of “the right” with “the past” is backward in this situation, as Mr. Bo seems to represent “the left” yet is recalling Mao. I’m particularly confused by calling this a “backlash”, because we generally associate backlash with (temporarily?) winnng, yet Mr. Bo representing the less-capitalist view is losing rather than winning.

    And it sounds like corruption and economic abuse -which are important problems in today’s China- affect _both_ sides dramatically. 

  • M Tortolani

    It’s a great story! But an old one… Child in expensive school, fancy life, sexy women, money and power gone corrupt! Political Party separation! Murder Mystery… We love this stuff!
    Can’t wait till Hillary runs for president in 2016!

    Get back to work…

  • C.P.

    Once again the Chinese people have shown to have a lot more common sense than the American people.

  • Wchao1107

    Accoding to Mr. Osnos, this is biggest crisis since 1989.It is all about hype. Every couple of yrs, high ranking offical, Like Bo, has been arrested for corruption, this time, it involved a dead British man. so make it more dramatic. it is in noway to cause political crisis in China. Time will tell, Mr. Osnos has very shallow and limited knowlege about Chinese political system and culture. That is problem for Western media, it is all about hype, rating. 

  • Slipstream66

    This will be a great movie someday – hopefully a documentary, but more likely a fictionalized version.

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