Why Bo Stole the Show

As show trials go, the drama featuring Bo Xilai, the once-swaggering, media-savvy former Communist Party chief of Chongqing, veered anomalously into improvisation. Bo might be heading to jail, but, by mounting a spirited defense, he remains politically viable as a future leader of China.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – As show trials go, the drama featuring Bo Xilai, the once-swaggering, media-savvy former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief of Chongqing, veered anomalously into improvisation. Before the proceedings began, the conventional wisdom was that Bo’s trial had been carefully scripted and rehearsed to portray a forlorn and penitent sinner confessing his crimes and apologizing to the Party.

But the historic five-day trial dispelled any notion that Bo would go quietly to his cell in Beijing’s infamous Qincheng Prison, where China’s fallen top leaders are incarcerated. He challenged the prosecution vigorously, defending himself with a feistiness that surprised nearly all who read the transcripts released by the court in real time on the trial’s first day.

Bo dismissed one of his accusers as having “sold his soul.” He characterized testimony given by his wife, Gu Kailai, now serving a suspended death sentence for murdering the British businessman Neil Heywood in 2011, as “comical” and “fictional,” and he called her “crazy.”

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