In a terse announcement, China’s official Xinhua News Agency announced March 15 that the charismatic Chongqing party leader and princeling, Bo Xilai, has been replaced. It is the biggest setback for a senior Chinese Communist Party leader since at least the sacking of former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu in a corruption scandal in 2006. “Bo will no longer serve as secretary, standing committee member, or member of the CPC Chongqing municipal committee,” according to the Xinhua announcement.
While Bo is still listed on a government website as one of the 25 members of China’s ruling Politburo, it is unclear whether he will also have to step down from that body. Even if he doesn’t, Bo’s political future seems finished, and his once-likely appointment to the nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo—with seven positions up for grabs this fall in a major leadership transition—is finished.
While some see the fall of Bo as a setback for princelings, or the children of early revolutionary leaders, others see his downfall stemming from a more generalized resistance in the ruling party to Bo’s swashbuckling, nontraditional campaign style—in essence, his use of populism and personality to try to win promotion to the top echelons of Chinese leadership. “Some leaders have been very nervous about Bo Xilai’s self-promotional campaign. They see it as a possible effort to establish a political kingdom to challenge Beijing,” says Cheng Li, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.