More Princeling drama: Guagua returns and possible public appearance by Bo Xilai

Yesterday, Epoch times reported that the FBI repatriated Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai’s son, Bo Guagua. Why should we care?

Before the 18th National People’s Congress opened, the Party had stripped Bo Xilai of his Party standing and his post, which is called “double removal (薄熙来双开)” and sentenced Gu Kailai to death, with a two-year probationary period. So one would think that the Congress would open and the folks at the top would get on with sentencing Bo Xilai and making official appointments. However, the 18th NPC has opened and we still don’t know what exactly is happening.

We can speculate, however, that with the repatriation of Guagua, apparently the United States has decided to help Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping do whatever it is they’re doing behind closed doors. It may be that Gu Kailai was actually poisoned, and Guagua needs to give evidence. It may also be that he knows something about his parents’ affairs. More importantly, whatever the legal reasons for dragging Guagau back home, the fact of his return seems to indicate that Hu Jintao and / or Xi Jinping have decided to break with Deng Xiaoping’s famous decision to spare Zhao Ziyang’s children from prosecution in the post Tian’anmen era.

Common wisdom holds that given the decision to deploy the military to squash the protests in 1989, Deng Xiaoping had no other option than placing Zhao Ziyang under house arrest. Nevertheless, he expressed his solidarity with his former protege by announcing that investigations into Tian’anmen would not include the children of prominent leaders. In fact, in the post-1989 era, Zhao Ziyang’s daughter, Wang Yannan (王雁南) has been active campaigning for the rehabilitation of her father and other leaders.

Deng Xiaoping’s decision to spare Zhao Ziyang’s four sons, let alone his wife and her family reflected a modern understanding of the family. Traditionally, when high-ranking officials were sentenced, the victims included “executing the nine branches of a lineage (灭门九族)”. Chinese kinship traditionally reckons lineage through the father-son relationship (agnatic descent-家族), but also distinguishes branches within the lineage through mother-daughter-and sister marriages (嫁). The nine kinship branches (九族) are:

  1. Father’s family, four kinship branches — self (kinship branches counted from eldest and other sons), married paternal aunts and cousins, married sisters and sisters’ children, married daughters and grandchildren;
  2. Mother’s family, three kinship branches — mother’s father’s family, mother’s mother’s family, and mother’s sister’s family;
  3. Wife’s family, two kinship branches — father-in-law’s family and mother-in-law’s family.

Obviously, contemporary Princeling court dramas are different from the Confucian first, second, third, and fourth wife scenarios a la Raise the Red Lantern (movie and book). This is why Bo Xilai’s first wife, Li Danyu could gossip with New York Times reporters about Bo-Gu family intrigue, while her and Bo’s eldest son Li Wangzhi can continue cattle farming. However, more colloquially, Guagua maybe be one of the implicated (株连) simply because his father has no other weakness and has yet to admit that he was wrong. After all, Gu Kailai did confess; Bo Xilai has made no public apologies or admissions of error.

Speculation du jour, if Princelings benefit from family connections, perhaps they can also be used against each other, especially against those like Bo Xilai, who might not otherwise bend. Bo Xilai will be sentenced in Guizhou, Guiyang. So to speculate even further, weibo has it, that on Monday, Oct 15, Bo Xilai will appear publicly in Guizhou, and inquiring minds want to know: how is this appearance connected to his younger son’s return?

guagua has vanished, but his older half-brother splashes across the chinese media

At this point in As Chongqing Turns, Guagua has vanished, but intrepid journalists have reported that his famously low key older half-brother, Li Wangzhi (李望知 Brandon Li) is in business with a Japanese chain selling high quality black angus steaks. More to the gossipy point of our story, Li Wangzhi gave his investment company a snarky classical name and his mother, Bo Xilai’s first wife, Li Danyu is throwing operatic slurs!

Flashback: In the rough and tumble years of the Cultural Revolution, the Bo family was out in the political cold with the rest of the 8 elders. Nevertheless, their children were intermarrying, consolidating alliances, and falling in and out of bad romance.

In 1976, Bo Xilai married Li Danyu (李丹宇), the princess daughter of the high-ranking cadre, Li Xuefeng (李雪峰), who in 1960 became the first political commissar of the Beijing Military Region and subsequently took control of the Beijing party organization after the purge of Peng Zhen in 1966. His political star fell when he supported Chen Boda during the 1971 Lushan Conference named him a Lin Biao supporter. In 1976, when his daughter married Bo Xilai, Li Xuefeng still faced another 3 years of  internal exile in Anhui province and would not be rehabilitated until 1982.

Bo Xilai was working as a manual laborer at the Bejing Number 5 Machine Repair Factory when he and Li Danyu married and had a son, Bo Wangzhi. In 1978, the college entrance exam system was re-instated and Bo Xilai was admitted to the Law Department of Beijing University where he met Gu Kailai. Princeling preferences for marrying within red circles being what they were, there were no degrees of separation between the young lovers — Li Danyu’s older brother was married to Gu Kailai’s third older sister, making Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai in-laws by marriage.

Even as Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai’s romance escalated, Li Danyu publicly accused her husband of being Chen Shimei (陈世美), the infamous adulterer from the eponymous Beijing opera. Li Danyu also tried to have Gu Kailai convicted on the “Destroying a Military Marriage” law. Nevertheless, Bo and Gu persevered and were married in 1984, when (it is said), the scorned ex-wife’s father was instrumental in having the couple run out of Beijing to Jin County, Dalian, where Bo Xilai’s political career began a Vice Secretary. Indeed, until 2003 when Li Xuefeng died and his influence over the Beijing political apparatus finally ended, Bo Xilai was unable to find a political position in the capital.

After her divorce from Bo Xilai, Li Danyu had their son change his surname from Bo to Li. Over the years, Li Danyu made sure that everyone knew of Bo and Gu’s lack of virtue, making sure that the story followed Bo wherever he was assigned.

Flash forward: Li Wangzhi grew up, graduated from Beijing University’s School of Law in 1996 and went on for a Master’s in Finance from Columbia in 2001. On returning to Beijing, Li Wangzhi set up a company called Chong’er Investment Consulting Ltd (重耳投资咨询有限公司). Inquiring minds want to know — what’s the story?

During the Spring and Autumn period, Chong’er (重耳) was the given name of Duke Jin Wen, son of Duke Jin Xian. Duke Jin Xian’s concubine, Li Pei had a child, Chong’er’s younger half-brother, Xi Qi. In order to secure Xi Qi’s future, Li Pei hatched a plot to kill Chong’er, who fled for his life. But in a what goes around comes around moment, Li Pei and Xi Qi died in court infighting and Chong’er triumphantly returned to take power.

Today, as Guagua hides and his parents remain hidden, Li Wangzhi moves forward (under the pseudonym Li Xiaobai) with his beef export business, which supplies Japanese steak aficionados with tasty, massaged Snow Dragon black angus steaks at $US 600 a kilo from ranches in — yes, its true — Dalian (雪龙黑牛股份公司).

Rumors, Rumors: What’s Bugging Guagua?

Two days ago, an open letter allegedly from a member of Bo Xilai’s family popped up on the internet, expressing the desire for a public hearing (“此信来自薄家亲戚, 希望公开发表”). Epoch Times – the media arm of Fa Lun Gong – broke the “story” saying that Bo’s son, Guagua may have written the letter. Maybe. Maybe not. Whatever else it may be, I believe that the letter is interesting for four reasons. First, in the absence of political opposition, satire formulates an alternative position. Second, the level of moral outrage that compelled the implied author to write seems genuine. Third, the fact that this letter is circulating as “news” reveals the extent to which the sentiments reflect popular dissatisfaction with the Center and its melodramatic backbiting political infighting Two Meetings. Fourth and relevant to Shenzhen, is the call that Chongqing might have been a Special Zone, like Yan’an and implicitly not like Shenzhen.

Translation of the Guagua letter below.

A FATHER’S TRAGEDY, A PEOPLE’S LAMENT – BO GUAGUA’S PUBLIC LETTER TO THE NETIZENS

In my last open letter to my father, I urged him to return the Chongqing Sing Red, Attack the Black back to the Yan’an years, making Chongqing the flag bearer for a democratic Party and the living spirit of Yan’an; to truly become a Special Zone for political reform. Unfortunately, my father has been too-long educated by the Party, ultimately prioritizing the Party and national power. I had hoped that through reflection and regret, the negative effects of the Chongqing model could be ameliorated. I had hoped that by sacrificing your political future, my Father could have restored the Party and the Country’s stability and harmony. Continue reading