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The Bo Xilai saga continues, NYTimes has a fascinating piece on Heywood, the man who was allegedly poisoned by Bo’s wife. A very interesting character- graduated from Harrow in England, worked aboard a yacht for a year, drove cross country across the US, worked for hourly wages in a small seaside business, all that before he wandered half way across the world to China- and to Dalian, of all places. I may be wrong, but i believe at the time Heywood moved to China, Dalian was definitely nowhere near as big or developed as it is now. He then married a Chinese lady Lulu and had two kids. There, he befriended the powerful Bos, a connection that must have served him well, until the end. He was reportedly estranged from them for about a year, and then he turns up dead. His family was told he died of heart attack, the british consulate was told alcohol poisoning, even though he’s a teetotaler?????  But then again, I really doubt ANY one trying to do business in China can be a teetotaler. who are you kidding? The Chinese businessmen won’t even look at you until you bottoms up some hard liquor- at lunch.

Anyway, the whole saga is baffling not just because it reads like a political drama from the old school Cold War days, spies, murder, political leaders and corruption. But baffling and intriguing because of the way it’s shed light on China’s supposed political turmoil, fuelling rumours of unrest in the party itself- and all this in its KEY transition year? that happens once every decade? Blogs on tencent and some other sites had to shut their blog commenting system for 3 days. A Chinese official described this as the worst political crisis since Tiananmen in 89. The WSJ has a nice piece on what this whole saga means.

At the end of March, Communist Party cadres were told that Mr. Bo was guilty of three offenses: taking the wrong political line, employing the wrong people and corruption. Evidently this was not enough to destroy his political reputation, and so the alleged murder plot by his wife has been added to the list.

All of this is a sign of internal political weakness in Beijing ruling circles. If the party leadership were unified, Mr. Bo would have been dismissed from his posts without the need to air the dirtiest of the dirty laundry.

Apparently Bo has always been more left wing, striving for more state power, control etc. coming at a time when Wen Jiabao has repeatedly said China needs to liberalise and be less state controlled. Anybody sense a conflict there? Well, thing is if it was just Bo, one man who was out of line, it wouldn’t be hard to shut him down. But he has his supporters in the party as well- how else would he have risen almost to the top ranks of the party?

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Turns out there’s a woman in the centre of the Bo Xilai saga in China, as with every good drama. A woman always makes it more interesting, especially when she’s the wife of the main lead, and especially when she’s “a woman whose intellect, drive and penchant for self-promotion easily matched her husband’s”. 

So supposedly, she’s charming, smart, something of a beauty, the “Jackie Kennedy of China”, married to the recently sacked party chief of Chongqing, who was poised to rise to the top of China’s party leadership. But it all went very wrong, with the death of a British business man in Chongqing last year, and the city’s former police chief seeking refuge with the U.S. It gets juicier:

Mr. Bo’s former police chief sought refuge in a U.S. consulate in China in early February. The ex-policeman, Wang Lijun, alleged that British businessman Neil Heywood, who died in Chongqing last year, was poisoned after he had fallen out with Ms. Gu.

But really, aside from the intriguing communist drama that has the makings of the next big Hollywood film– a princeling descending from party aristocracy unceremoniously thrown out and fallen from grace in such a public manner and amid so much scandal. Who knows what’s really happening behind the scenes and how much we will eventually find out, but it definitely the sacking definitely sheds interesting light on China’s political transition.

And in the absence of my favourite TV dramas like Downton Abbey, Walking Dead, and Revenge, I’m glued to this saga, for now.