By Mike Bastin.

While the rumors continue about Bo, his wife Gu and the death of Neil Heywood, it is surprising that the real reason for this entire saga has not yet been publicized. The real reason is not that Bo was seen as a potential threat to the current and future leadership in China, nor has it anything to do with any business deals that ’went wrong’, instead it all came about once it became clear that Bo was planning to defect, probably to the U.K or U.S and live out the rest of his life there while spilling the beans about the Chinese Communist Party’s inner workings and dealings. Bo’s planned defection came to light when he, and others, moved almost all his entire capital out of China. Such a move could only mean one thing – imminent defection and, according to the minds of the Party leaders, damaging and lasting betrayal.

Attacking the Party leadership from within is one thing but far, far more alarming is the prospect of a former leading member launching wave after wave of criticism, safe from any Party retribution, and criticism littered with intimate, personal details of Party goings on.

Despite huge economic and social benefits that go with senior Party positions, the fact remains that all Party leaders or those close to senior leadership positions have to remain based in China; something they would rather not do. The U.S and parts of Europe offer a far greater quality of life. China’s rapid ’development’ and urbanization has led to very few quiet, scenic spaces as well as almost permanent noise pollution no matter where you are based.

So why was Bo so stupid in moving all his capital overseas at the same time? This is probable due to the sheer arrogance and feeling of total infallibility that goes with a high-up job in the Party hierarchy. Bo, just one example, was never under any kind of accountability or even request for some transparency in his working life. This not only poses obvious dangers to societal stability, it also allows the individuals concerned to lapse into a soporific state of delusion. Not only delusional, those in these unchallenged positions develop an addiction to power, influence and, above all, economic greed.

One of my current research projects involves further insight into ’quality of life’ or ’well being’ and the relationship between material/economic gain and ’happiness’. Perhaps this presents yet further evidence of an inverse relationship between ’wealth’ and ’happiness’?

It is rumored that the princely sum of 800 million pounds has been transferred overseas in this case. Staggering that this only came to light AFTER the transfer, but even more alarming is the size of this sum. What is it that continues to motivate people even when they have already accumulated wealth that can never be spent? Why not just stop at a few million and enjoy a life of leisure? Clearly, the psychological addiction to power, influence and greed becomes overwhelming and may affect us all in such a position.

With China’s ever increasing economic power, this vicious circle of power-wealth- arrogance will undoubtedly lead to more examples of the Bo kind.

As a result, wait for more of the same and soon…..

Mike Bastin is PhD student at School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham.

Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors.


  1. Thank you, Mike, for this interesting perspective. But what is the evidence that Bo had intended to defect to the US or the UK? You also mentioned the huge sum Bo was alleged to have stashed away overseas. What is the evidence to support this rumour? For such serious allegations, evidence is essential, won’t you say?

  2. Interesting post Michael. On the wealth/happiness point, my grandfather many years ago wrote an article which appeared in Time. He wrote about “Imaginary Poverty” which he observed in some wealthy patients. The article appears somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but you might find it a valid point nonetheless.,9171,939765,00.html I hope it is helpful to you and your research on this matter.

  3. I’d echo Steve Tsang’s call for some evidence here. It seems almost unthinkable that someone of Bo’s party standing and heritage would risk all to become an exile in a foreign land. the simple truth is that we are all guessing and the truth is likely to characterised by ambiguity, complexity and intrigue. His campaigning, as Wasserstrom recently commented on a CNN blog, seemed an utterly inappropriate form of public conduct in a one-party-state, and his attempts (somewhat successful) to garner impassioned support by chongqing residents suggest he had very little intention of fleeing. As Wassterstrom commented, it looked more like the conduct of a media-savvy western politician campaigning for public office in an electoral democracy rather than an all powerful princeling destined for the top table of chinese politics.

    I’m not ready to dismiss any speculation, but we must admit that it is all speculation. But the more convincing speculation seems to point to a serious breach of discipline by Bo, whether that be complicity in the murder of Heywood, protecting his wife, embezzling funds or tapping Tao Ge’s phones. What is certainly emerging is a picture of a rather unsavoury family acting with impunity and callous disregard for anyone other than themselves. If Bo was about to defect, it was clearly not on ideological grounds, but in order to protect ill-gotten gains.

    Bo is noted by several older generation people I’ve spoken to to be a vile runt who tortured his own father when he was part of the most aggressive element of the Red Guards. I don’t think there is much love lost for this guy in the grand scheme of things.

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