In China, a prominent leader faces scandal

David Brancaccio Apr 13, 2012

David Brancaccio: An ongoing story captivating China involves a man who was, until recently, a rising star within the ruling party, his spouse, and a British businessman who turn up dead in a Chinese hotel room. The wife is suspected of murder, her charismatic husband Bo Xilai is disgraced, his political power neutralized and now the investigation is reportedly looking into financial corruption. The New York Times reports the wealth of this former power couple is now in the crosshairs.

Bill Bishop is a U.S. business consultant in Beijing. Mr. Bishop, good morning.

Bill Bishop: Good morning, how are you?

Brancaccio: Good. This is a major story, right? People are paying attention in China to this? Give me a sense here about the fact that the story seems to be now moving into the financial arrangements of the couple in question.

Bishop: Well, that’s one of the things that I think people are most fascinated about. You know, most people here are assume that there’s a fairly high level of corruption. And so now, as details come out, I think people are quite interested in some of the dealings and there’s not really surprise that there’s corruption. And so I think what we’re actually going to see is more details coming out and more calls in the media talking about just how bad this guy was; and how everyone has to rally around the party, and the party’s unified, moving forward, and everything is great.

Brancaccio: And you think it’s about politics? In other words, making sure that this guy’s career is truly ended?

Bishop: I think at this point there are very few people, if anyone, who think that he can actually recover from this. Certainly, politics is a big part of it. I think some of the reports in the Western media about factionalism and hard line/soft line kind of stuff is a bit overblown. This is also about the arrangements for the next group of leaders. It’s going to be decided some time this fall at the 18th Communist Party Congress. But it’s politics; it’s also money and influence. And you think the ideological positions of these guys are actually, I think, much closer together than most people would have you believe.

Brancaccio: Bill Bishop is a U.S. business consultant in Beijing. Mr. Bishop, thank you.

Bishop: Thank you.

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