If reports are to be believed, Bo Xilai, the man at the centre of a swirling saga involving corruption, murder, and the inner workings of the Chinese communist party, is also a very, very wealthy man.Bo’s family are now thought to have accumulated around $136 million — a huge figure in a country where even senior politicians only earn around $478 a month.
Now corruption in itself isn’t that surprising. What is surprising though, is Bo himself.
For non-experts, its easy to glance quickly at Bo, what with all that talk of fighting corruption, his Western-style charm, and the lavish life his family has led (including the employment of his oldest son at Citigroup), and think of him as a laissez faire capitalist reformer, and that was why the Beijing Communist elite forced him out.
But no, that’s not true at all. Bo is not a reformer. Bo is a Maoist.
His aim was to fortify the state-owned businesses, and keep the government’s monopoly on power and production. He had people in Chongqing singing “Revolutionaries Are Forever Young” and praising the cultural revolution.
Bo’s duel stance may seem contradictory — calling for more state power while undermining the state by breaking the rules.
But corruption and connections are a fact of life in China. “Guanxi” —a system of personal connections — is so old its been linked to Confucian teachings. A new word, “Guanxixue” developed more recently according to Thinking Chinese — has appeared to describe the abuse of Guanxi for personal gain.
China has now acknowledged that corruption is a huge problem. But if many of the key players in the Communist Party are also people who grew up profiting from the state’s monopoly, reform can’t be so easy. If Bo’s financial affairs turn out to be true, perhaps it will be a huge help for this reform movement.
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