0820 china
Police stand guard outside the Intermediate People's Court in Hefei, Anhui province before the sentencing of Gu Kailai, wife of the disgraced leader Bo Xilai on August 20, 2012. - 

Jeff Horwich: A court in China has given a suspended death penalty to the wife of disgraced communist leader Bo Xilai. Gu Kailai was convicted in the murder of a British businessman, and this wraps up one of the most embarrassing scandals for China's government in decades.

And yet, it could have been worse, says Marketplace China bureau chief Rob Schmitz.

Rob Schmitz: China had some choices to make when this scandal began: either use the scandal to crack down on corruption within the communist party or ensure that the outcome would protect the very corruption at the heart of the scandal in the first place.

Tsinghua University Professor Patrick Chovanec says the party has chosen the second option. He says there are still a lot of unanswered questions about Gu Kailai’s alleged murder of businessman Neil Heywood.

Patrick Chovanec: Why did she kill Heywood? The reason presumably, was that he was involved in helping her and the Bo family in moving a lot of money offshore. A lot of money that presumably was earned in corrupt ways.

And that wasn’t a conversation China’s communist party wanted to have. Because, according to Chovanec, it would reveal something too sensitive.

Patrick Chovanec: That Bo Xilai was not unique. That they all do this. And the difference is he got caught.

He may have gotten caught, but his wife is, so far, paying a bigger price. Most experts agree Bo’s fate won’t end as harshly.

In Shanghai, I’m Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

Follow Rob Schmitz at @rob_schmitz