Photo: YouTube Screenshot
In a confusing mini-scandal that has spun out of a the wider Bo Xilai scandal, everyone right now is asking the big question — what kind of car does Bo Xilai’s “playboy” son Bo Guagua drive?.If that sounds a little irrelevant in the wake of a wider scandal that some say is changing China’s entire future, well… yeah, maybe it is. But it’s certainly interesting.
You see, last November a WSJ story on China’s princelings featured a great introduction to the young Bo, with the first few lines detailing the red Ferrari driven by a tuxedo-wearing Bo who was picking up one of then-Ambassador Jon Huntsman’s daughters for a date.
The story certainly did the rounds (we saw it referenced literally dozens of times).
But then last month the New York Times seemed to go out of their way to debunk the story, featuring claims from Bo that the date was actually a casual dinner party and that a couple of the Huntsman daughters were there. He said he went to the party in a black Audi and wasn’t wearing a tuxedo. Intriguingly, the article said that Jon Huntsman himself might be behind the rumour.
WSJ was forced to make a correction.
Now Chinese fashion writer Hong Huang has written an article for the Chinese Language magazine Southern Weekly (summarized on the blog WantChinaTimes) that claims that Rupert Murdoch was the original source behind the rumour — he had apparently been told by Huntsman.
After the denial by Bo, a friend of Hong’s was reportedly threatened by WSJ reporters, who had mistakenly referred to her as the source for Ferrari story — even thought the friend knew the story was false as she herself had shepherded Huntsman’s daughter to a restaurant to dine with Bo Guagua in a dark blue Volkswagen.
Gawker’s John Cook has spoken to WSJ’s China editors who deny Murdoch’s involvement and deny that any threats were made. However Cook also alludes to hearing from other (unnamed) sources that the Huntsman had told Murdoch the rumour, and that Hong’s friend had indeed felt “badgered”.
Confused? Yes, we are too.
But it’s ultimately a pretty illuminating example of how important appearances are in the ongoing Bo Xilai scandal. Remember, this guy was a neo-Maoist — the idea that his son driving around in a Ferrari, dating beautiful daughters of Western politicians (not to mention the family’s reported $136 million fortune) makes him look ridiculously hypocritical. No wonder Bo Guagua has gone out of his way to deny the Ferrari rumours (“I have never driven a Ferrari” he said in a letter to the Harvard Crimson this year).
It’s also a pretty remarkable insight into how hard to report this story has been for Western outlets, and perhaps a weird insight into the influence Murdoch and Huntsman have had on it. Ultimately, it does seem that the WSJ (who have generally been ahead of other outlets on the story) got it wrong — Bo Guagua doesn’t drive a red Ferrari.
But there’s too sides to the story of course. It’s worth remembering, Bo got three tickets for speeding in an $80,000 2011 Porsche Panamera in the states in 2010 and 2011.
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