Power and legitimacy in the new China: the case of Bo Xilai
Paper short abstract:
In the Chinese single-party political system, leaders acquire and exercise power by joining or organising a hierarchical faction. By examining the factional struggles surrounding Communist Party politician Bo Xilai, this paper illuminates the dynamics of power in early 21st century China.
Paper long abstract:
In the Chinese single-party political system, leaders acquire and exercise power by joining or organising a hierarchical faction. This paper will examine the case of Chongqing Communist Party leader and Politburo member Bo Xilai, who fell from power in 2012 when his police-chief, previously a loyal member of his clique, fled to the US Consulate and Bo's wife was accused of the murder of a British businessman. Bo was gaoled, losing overnight his freedom, his good name and a political career many expected to lead to the highest office. At his trial, a year later, historically open to the public, Bo was convicted of corruption, embezzlement and abuse of power. Through interviews with four officials, this paper sheds light on the unwritten rules governing the acquisition and exercise of power in the Chinese bureaucracy by leaders such as Bo, including the dyadic relationships established through personal networks (Guanxi) and links between political factions and business (Quanzi) which were exposed in Bo's trial. The paper shows that a proliferating individual sphere is interwoven with the collective state as a locus for such relationships, allowing influential leaders to extend their power beyond state agencies. Finally, the paper will show that in order to preserve the legitimacy of the state, the full extent of such relationships was not allowed to emerge fully in the political performance of Bo's trial, prompting civic desires for a more transparent supervision of the power domain.
Power, desire and social contract: power's aftermath in the contemporary world