Whether or not he’s out of politics forever, this certainly does seem to be a pretty big derail for Bo’s career. From WaPo:
The report made no mention of whether Bo also lost his position on the Party central committee and Politburo in Beijing.
The report came one day after Prime Minister Wen Jiabao used a press conference to publicly rebuke Bo for a Feb 6 scandal that saw the former Chongqing police chief seek refuge for 24 hours at the American consulate in Chengdu.
“This is an earthquake before the 18th Party Congress,” said Wu Jiaxiang, a Chinese scholar. He called the dismissal Thursday the end of just one power struggle over the seats on the next Standing Committee.
According to Chinese media reports, Li Yuanchao, head of the Communist Party’s secretive and powerful organization department which controls personnel and staffing, traveled personally to Chongqing Thursday to announce the decision on Bo’s sacking to local officials there.
From The Useless Tree, on whether or not this is the end of the facade of unity that has been an obsession of the Chinese government since Tiananmen:
For those of us who were around in 1989, one of the key factors that fueled the massive demonstrations that year was the split at the very top of the Chinese political hierarchy, a difference of opinion on how to deal with the students in Tiananmen Square. Roughly, Zhao Ziyang seemed to be seeking some sort of compromise, while Li Peng took a harder line. That difference ultimately led to the failure of the first deployment of military power in May and the eventual downfall of Zhao. Since then it appears that everyone at the top of the political order, especially the Politburo, learned the same lesson: if they let internal differences spill out into the public they could face another crisis of 1989 proportions.
The fix might be in for Zhang: he takes over this duty for now (running the massive conglomerate of Chongqing, for which he seems unsuited), and in return he will move up to the Standing Committee later this fall. And, by some calculations, that might preserve a certain balance among various factions at the top (“Pincelings” v. Communist Youth League veterans v. regional interests, etc.).
And yet… the abruptness and publicity of Bo’s fall might open the door to new, more divisive, political tactics at the top. And if that happens, the lessons of 1989 may go by the wayside.
And still another possibility: Bo’s fall is limited and the broader political damage thus contained. Thus far, he has lost his leadership positions in Chongqing. He is still a member of the Politburo. Although it seems less likely now that he will be promoted to the highest leadership level of the Standing Committee, it may be the case that he does not fall any further politically. Maybe he remains on the Politburo and gains some other sort of position, not as prominent as the leader of Chongqing, but neither as low as some prefecture in Qinghai.
His prospects had been dimmed since bloggers revealed five weeks ago – in posts supported by photographs – that Bo’s hand-picked police chief and right-hand man, Wang Lijun, had been escorted by police away from the US consulate in Chengdu.
Whether he went to the consulate seeking asylum or for another purpose has not been disclosed. But rather than blacking out all news of the scandal, local and national officials fed it, announcing first that Mr. Wang was undergoing “vacation style medical treatment” and then revealing that Wang had spent a whole night at the consulate and was under investigation.
President Hu Jintao was widely reported last week as describing Wang as a “traitor,” which bode ill for his mentor, and on Wednesday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao banged the last nail into Bo’s coffin with some blunt criticism of his political rival at a press conference – an extremely unusual public assault on a fellow leader.
Finally, the China Media Project has a post about how the news has spread in China:
In wire copy so austere it seemed to supply the epitaph for the political saga of the charismatic “princeling” Bo Xilai (薄熙来), China’s Xinhua News Agency reported today that Bo would no longer serve as the top leader of Chongqing.
It remains to be seen, of course, whether mainstream Chinese media will attempt deeper coverage of Bo Xilai and the Wang Lijun incident — or for that matter, the Cultural Revolution, given Wen Jiabao’s remarks yesterday.
Until then, the discussion will have to happen on Chinese social media, where for most of the day “Bo Xilai” has been one of the top-trending topics.
But as everyone is pouncing on this story as an illustration of internal Party struggles over the future and the 18th Party Congress, let’s not forget that it is also about the past. Bo Xilai has symbolized nostalgia over the Maoist era, and many on China’s left have been supportive of this.