According to a report in Reuters Neil Heywood was apparently murdered because he threatened to expose the financial dealings of Gu Kailai, Bo Xilai’s wife, “after she became outraged when he demanded a larger cut of the money than she had expected due to the size of the transaction”, the sources said.” Well, having been exposed to Chinese middle age females from the country’s “new money” elite (invariably with a party book), envisaging her tantrum almost evokes a sort of Déjà-vu. Nevertheless, there are a couple of things which aren’t quite right with this story.
Firstly, we can be sure that because Bo Xilai’s removal was due to factional struggles within the party, that it had to happen as soon as possible in order to stop Bo cementing his support in the upper echelons of the party in his bid for a spot on the nine-member Standing Committee, which will be decided at this autumn’s 18th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) congress. Therefore, we might conclude that whatever the truth behind the murder of the British businessman, Neil Heywood, the accusations against Bo’s wife, and by implication, against Bo himself, provide extra ammunition for those who are out gunning for the former mayor of Chongqing. Furthermore, the following point made by Reuters provides food for thought; “It was not immediately clear how Heywood would have helped Gu shift large sums of money offshore, though China’s capital controls pose a formidable barrier to anyone trying to move large sums of yuan out of the country“.
Now, is the author of this post being a little bit naive here? Of course, that might be dependent to some extent on what is meant by “large sums of yuan“. Nevertheless, as anyone who has a Chinese bank account knows, the “Unionpay” facility allows money to be picked up from thousands of ATMs in the U.K. alone with a card. Of course, this is hardly indication of a real loophole in China’s capital controls, but it does at least suggest that it is no longer that difficult to transfer yuan out of the country. Moreover, drop into any of the Casinos in Macau and you can see with your own eyes that many mainland Chinese are moving quite considerable amounts of money out of the PRC.
Yes, it might be that Neil Heywood was murdered and it might be that Gu Kailai is responsible for that murder. However, a motive as simple as the one being given at the moment, doesn’t really stand up to much scrutiny. Furthermore, we can be reasonably sure, that if Bo Xilai had not lost out in the fractional struggles within the party, then there is really no way we would be reading any of this. Therefore, while all of this does make for quite a riveting little story, it is most certainly not Neil Heywood’s murder that ended Bo Xilai’s hopes of becoming one of China’s chosen.