In China, a princeling’s lifestyle causes controversy

Fascinating stories abound about Bo Guagua, the son of two Chinese Communist Party officials caught up in a massive political and criminal scandal. Bo’s father, Bo Xilai, was once a rising star within the party but has lately been stripped of all posts and stands accused of corruption and abuse of power. His mother, Gu Kailai is suspected of murdering a British businessman whose exact ties to her son are not totally clear.

The whole affair has drawn attention to Bu Guagua’s own globe-trotting lifestyle, which has so far included stints at an elite English private school, an undergraduate degree (barely squeaked out) at Oxford and acceptance at Harvard’s Kennedy School, arguably the most prestigious graduate institute for the study of politics in the English-speaking world. More salaciously, Bo has also been known to drive a Ferrari and a Porsch, throws lavish parties and is pictured online peeing on an Oxford fence, posing with his shirt off and just generally living the kind of life not expected of the grandson of Chinese communist heroes.

Two related points stuck out to me. One, the cognitive dissonance of Bo Xilai simply denying entirely his son’s way of life. From the Times story:

Last month, a few days before he lost his job as party chief of Chongqing, Bo Xilai was forced to respond to questions about how his modest government salary could support his son’s tuition and expensive tastes. He called the accusations “sheer rubbish,” and insisted that Mr. Bo had won full scholarships, although he did not address the allegations in detail. “A few people have been pouring filth on Chongqing and me and my family,” he told reporters. “They even say my son studies abroad and drives a red Ferrari.”

The other, similarly dissonant, from Oxford  explaining why Bo, by the Times account a pretty substandard student, was let in:

Oxford administrators dismissed the idea that Bo Xilai’s stature as a rising political star played any role in his son’s admission. “That kind of stuff just doesn’t happen,” said Ruth Collier, Oxford’s head of information. “If this young man won a place at Balliol, he got in on his merits.”

Harvard, for the record, wouldn’t comment on how a young man once suspended for an entire year by Oxford gained admission to one of its most exclusive graduate schools. A final random point: What do you think it’s like to be one of the girls in this photo?

Looking for more?

Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.