Bo Xilai made a name for himself for advancing so-called "leftist" politics; that is, a return to a more state-centric model for China's development.
What did this have to do with his downfall?
First of all, I want to correct the common perception among Westerners that the Bo Xilai case was a battle between the good and the evil, or a conflict
between Maoist radicals and moderate reformists. My co-author and I don't believe that Bo actually cared about the Maoist tradition; he simply saw it as an
avenue to gain popular support by appealing directly to the people. It was, simply, another brand of politics. Bo was able to capitalize on a general trend
toward state involvement in the economy, launched by Hu Jintao, as well as general public anger about income inequality and rampant corruption.
I don't believe for a minute Bo believed in what he was doing, and neither did Premier Wen Jiabao with his so-called "liberal" ideas, really. I mean, Bo sent
his son to Harvard to study political science while encouraging Chongqing's population to study Maoism. Wen Jiabao espoused liberal democratic reforms, but
no political reforms was implemented under his rule. He advocated a clean government while his family was making millions of dollars through their
Ultimately, there aren't really any liberals in the Chinese political system. Everything boils down to personal interests, and no matter what they say,
none of the Chinese leaders want political reform so long as they're in power. They look at what happened with the Arab Spring, with Hosni Mubarak, all the
score settling, and they fear that they're going to end up in jail.
What do you think will be Bo Xilai's legacy? Is it all negative?
No, we are seeing a couple of positive repercussions. First of all, the case has enabled the public to see how
rotten the political system is and how hypocritical Communist Party officials are, prompting them to pressure the new leadership to change.
This is really the first time the foreign media has become deeply involved with Chinese politics. In the past, when something like the Bo Xilai scandal broke out,
you wouldn't hear about it until later, but now it's different. Social media sites like Weibo were abuzz with reports, in spite of censorship efforts, and
it was almost as if events were unfolding in real time. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The Guardian
and The Telegraph were all there covering the case, with information provided by insider sources. Their reports were then filtered back to China,
forcing the government to respond, which in itself was a positive development. Basically, the foreign media played a role that the Chinese media couldn't.
What do you think they're going to do about Bo?
Bo's pending trial, eagerly awaited by the media, will now matter less to the Chinese leadership, which has already moved on. But, the new leaders will use
Bo's punishment for a new purpose -- showcasing the party's determination to clamp down on corruption and abuse of power. Since the courts are subordinate
to the party, Bo's trial will likely be a mere formality or highly choreographed affair, and no matter how vigorously his lawyers defend him, he'll almost
certainly be found guilty. Regardless of what type of prison sentences that Bo will get, one thing is for sure -- they will never allow him to get out and
stage another comeback.