Latest Stories

‘We are the serfs’—Chinese debate Bo Xilai saga

BEIJING—Yan Weilan combs through the Internet each day for any fresh news or rumors on China’s rumbling political scandal that might have slipped past the country’s hawk-like censors.

The affair, which has toppled a high-flying politician amid allegations of corruption and murder, marks the first time many Chinese have seen a political drama involving the elite play out publicly in their lifetimes.

Despite a government push to throttle media and Internet discussion, China’s most taboo subject is one of its most talked-about among ordinary Chinese, who debate its portent with a mix of fascination and outrage.

“We haven’t seen anything like this. I look every day, especially for any of the foreign media reports,” said Yan, 29, an insurance industry worker whose sister in the United States emails her news from Western outlets on the affair.

In China’s biggest political drama in decades, Bo Xilai — a charismatic rising star among the country’s technocratic leaders — was sacked as leader of the Chongqing megacity in March and then suspended from the Communist Party’s powerful Politburo.

He had been destined for the highest echelons of power and the scandal — replete with allegations of corruption, luxurious lifestyles and the death of a British businessman — has read like a Hollywood drama.

It burst into the open in February when Bo’s right-hand man Wang Lijun fled in fear to a US consulate, reportedly demanding asylum and handing over dirt on his former boss.

Bo’s successful lawyer wife Gu Kailai has subsequently been implicated in the death of a British business associate, Neil Heywood, according to state media, which said an investigation is under way.

Feeding the titillation has been online rumors of illegitimate children fathered by Bo, a conspiracy to halt his rise, even his use of aphrodisiacs to seduce young women and other conjecture.

But university student Wang Bao said there is widespread distrust among many ordinary Chinese over the official push to vilify Bo, especially amid political jockeying ahead of a once-a-decade leadership shift later this year.

“I don’t trust any of what I hear. There is a lot of talk among people about accusations being made against Bo and his wife but how can we know if anything is true?” he said.

He added the affair had only underlined the impotence of ordinary Chinese and the immense gulf between them and the country’s rulers, a view leaders have struggled to deflect amid regular reports of corruption and high-handedness by officials.

“There are all these things happening up here and we are down here,” Wang said, holding his hand up above his head and then lowering it to his knees.

“They are in the sky and we are the serfs. What power do we have?”

The image-conscious central government has shut down dozens of websites, deleted hundreds of thousands of microblog posts and even detained people for spreading false information. But online speculation has continued to pour out.

Analysts say the case has upset the ruling Communist party’s outwardly monolithic image, exposing a rift between an ascendant reformist faction and an old guard favoring a tighter grip on society and the economy.

Bo, who during his time in Chongqing organized the mass singing of Communist-era songs and is the son of a revered Communist revolutionary, is seen to be from the latter.

“I think there could be more (political) fighting coming. The tree wants to stand still but the wind won’t stop,” said businessman Li De, 44, using a Chinese proverb to describe forces beyond one’s control.

“There is a possibility of that,” he said as he struck up a conversation with an AFP reporter on the topic that is preoccupying many.

“But what can we (ordinary people) do? We can only watch,” he added, saying most Chinese feel the stability-conscious government will prevent the issue escalating into a full-blown factional crisis.

But people like Yan, who professes no real interest in politics, are anticipating even more salacious details to emerge from an ongoing investigation.

“We don’t have this type of thing in China usually. It usually happens in the West,” she said.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Bo Xilai , China , Politics

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  2. SC suspends proctor in 2011 bar exams
  3. What Went Before: Enrile denies Gigi Reyes was ‘other woman’
  4. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  5. Solons seek ample protection for bank depositors
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  8. Massive infra spending set
  9. Tragedies at sea: The Sewol and the Costa Concordia
  10. Santiago: Gigi Reyes is Enrile’s fall guy
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  5. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  6. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  7. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  8. Massive infra spending set
  9. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  10. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  8. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  9. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken ferry in Korea
  • Aquino: ‘Doubting Thomases’ now contributing to PH recovery
  • Fire engulfs apartments in Sampaloc
  • Messy warehouse belongs to Unicef, WFP, says Soliman
  • Suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels release hostage
  • Sports

  • Warriors beat Clippers in playoff opener
  • Pacquiao top Mayweather contender
  • Rain or Shine, Ginebra clash for No. 6 spot
  • Ateneo eyes quarterfinal spot vs Benilde
  • Style contrast marks OneFC ‘Rise of Heroes’
  • Lifestyle

  • Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  • Simplifying and lightening life
  • Where to go for Easter night-out
  • Joe de Venecia visits the Queen Mother of Cambodia
  • Fashionistas flock to designer’s wedding
  • Entertainment

  • Show-biz celebrities’ other choices of summer getaway
  • Why ‘Noah’ can’t dock his ark at Philippine theaters
  • Acclaimed artist goes wild while on holiday
  • Believing in this mermaid
  • Missing Xian
  • Business

  • Top-selling insurance agent opens her dream café
  • Connecting and transacting with one another
  • Building wealth for health
  • Why Mandaue Foam buys, rather than rents, space
  • A workplace of new possibilities
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Epiphany
  • Unpaid creditor vs distressed debtor
  • Moving on
  • From culinary desert to paradise
  • Response to China: ‘Usjaphil’
  • Global Nation

  • Asia seeks Obama’s assurance in territorial spats
  • Cesar Chavez movie sparks memories of Fil-Am labor leaders
  • Filipinos in US poised for success
  • Visas for priests and other faith leaders
  • DOH to continue tracking co-passengers of OFW infected with MERS virus
  • Marketplace