x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bo Xilai, a hardliner who fell from grace

Once a respected politician known for arresting gangs and reviving Maoist ideals, China's Bo Xilai has suffered a dramatic fall from grace that now sees him linked to a suspected murder.

BEIJING // Once a respected politician known for arresting gangs and reviving Maoist ideals, China's Bo Xilai has suffered a dramatic fall from grace that now sees him linked to a suspected murder.

Mr Bo, a one-time commerce minister, was known for his suave and open demeanour which was seen as refreshing in a country where leaders are often rigid and emotionless in public.

But behind Mr Bo's smiling demeanour lurked the tragedy of his teens during the Cultural Revolution, a decade of deadly chaos launched by Mao Zedong in which students turned on teachers and officials were purged.

His father, Bo Yibo, was a revolutionary who fell from grace and was jailed and tortured during the turbulent period. His mother was beaten to death and Bo Xilai spent time in a labour camp.

But when Mao died and reformist leader Deng Xiaoping took over, Bo Yibo was rehabilitated and became one of the most powerful men in China, bestowing on his son an impeccable family pedigree that long protected him.

Mr Bo earned a master's degree in journalism - an educational background that stands out in the crowd of engineers and scientists who make up China's political elite.

For nearly two decades from 1985, he was based in China's north-eastern post-industrial "rust belt", first as mayor of Dalian, a decaying port city which he is credited with transforming into a modern investment hub.

He then became governor of Liaoning province - where Dalian is located - and in 2004 entered the Beijing limelight as China's commerce minister, dazzling foreign counterparts with his modern, can-do attitude.