We had a three day lull there during which Bo Xilai disappeared from the public eye and, with both he and the Mayor of Chongqing, Huang Qifan, missing an important city work conference on Thursday, speculation as to their both being arrested was rife.
However, the latest news to come out of China is that on Friday he turned up to meet a Vietnamese Communist Party official in Chonqging, and, in stressing the importance of party cadres staying clean even in a corrupt environment, made his first public attempt at distancing himself from Wang Lijun.
Moreover, the fact that Bo is continuing to make public appearances would appear to suggest that the Beijing leadership has already drawn a line between Bo and Wang, even if it is no secret that both Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao neither supported Bo’s red culture and anti-vice campaign, nor viewed the flamboyant Bo as a suitable candidate for the Standing Committee with its emphasis on collective leadership.
Of course, with Bo sending the Chongqing Mayor, Huang Qifan , and over 70 police cars all the way from Chongqing to Chengdu to blockade the US consulate and with those police then challenging the Chinese national security for the custody of Wang, there is at least an indication that Bo has something to hide. Therefore, we might ask the question why, at least for the time being, does he appear to be safe?
The simple reason being suggested is that Bejing is not ready to make its move with it being argued that, should Bo be forced to retire before the 18th Party Congress the party will be embarrassed before the all-important transition of power. There might be some truth in that. However, more importantly, there is very real evidence that as long as Bo remains in his power base in South West, where he has both popular support and support within elements the military, he is safe. Indeed, what can Beijing actually do at the moment?
Furthermore, there is a third very important factor that is tied to the support that Bo has within the PLA. In a country where “guangxi”, the Chinese equivalent of the “old school tie”, is all important, he is one of China’s so-called princelings, the offspring of the communist party elite. Moreover, while neither Hu Jintao, nor Wen Jiabao belong, strictly speaking, to this group, Hu JIntao’s designated successor Xi Jinping does and it is believed that there is already an informal alliance between him and the other princelings who are candidates for promotion.
Finally, while alliances such as this haven’t always counted for much in China, what we now see is a situation where Bo’s son, Bo Guagua, is at Harvard where he has a relationship with Chen Xiaodan, the daughter of second-generation princeling Chen Yuan, the head of China Development Bank, …. and guess who else is there ……. Xi Jinping’s daughter Xi Mingze. The evidence would appear to suggest that, in today’s China, it is not what you know, or even what you have done, but rather who you know and if Bo Xilai can keep out of Hu Jintao’s clutches ….. This story is beginning to get interesting.