Leadership stories of the week: Bo Xilai, Glenn Greenwald, Narendra Dabholkar

August 22, 2013

In China, the long-running saga of the charismatic leader Bo Xilai reaches court. In the UK, the Brazilian partner of a Guardian journalist is detained at Heathrow. This adds to the Edward Snowden story of the leaking confidential information to the embarrassment of the US and UK government security agencies. In India, Narendra Dabholkar an advocate of rationality, is killed

As this is examination season, I have added brief notes for leadership students.

The Bo Xilai trial

This story of the rise and fall of the charismatic Chinese leader Bo Xilai continues. This week [August 2013] Bo Xilai goes on trial. A long-running drama reaches a critical stage. The story has been followed and been through over twenty updates in an earlier LWD post. These need to be sifted through as a starting point to evaluating what happened in this complex story of leadership, ambition, charisma, and global implications. Writing a post on the trial requires considerable thought or it will be mostly speculation

The Guardian and the latest in the Snowden spy leaks story

In the UK, The Guardian newspaper makes news itself The background to the story according to CNN:

Lawyers acting for David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, said they will bring his case to the High Court in London on Thursday [Aug 22 2013] after he was detained at Heathrow Airport.
Greenwald, who works for The Guardian newspaper, has been at the forefront of high-profile reports exposing secrets in U.S. intelligence programs, based on leaks from former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Miranda, a Brazilian citizen, spent nearly nine hours in detention Sunday being questioned under a provision of Britain’s terrorism laws. He was stopped as he passed through London on his way from Berlin to his home in Brazil.

For students of leadership, we have here a typical ‘story within a story’. An examination of the dilemmas facing the various leaders involved is a worthwhile exercise.

The murder of Narendra Dabholkar

In India, Narendra Dabholkar an advocate of rationality and a kind of Indian Richard Dawkins is killed. The story is being presented as the fate of a modernizing leader threatening traditional ‘superstitions’ and perhaps being killed for his views. This is a version of the dilemmas facing reforming and charismatic leaders.


Another UK story. The ‘Best and worse Pensions providers’ are named. I would argue that the review is valuable information, but needs to be recognized as being about ‘best current yield’ rather than ‘best Pension’ providers.

The rise and fall of Bo Jilai and Gu Kailai [Updated]

April 15, 2012

The fast-changing story is being updated here. An earlier post reviewed the accounts of the political demise of charismatic leader Bo Jilai and the prosecution of his wife and one-time celebrity lawyer Gu Kailai, for the alleged murder of British businessman Neil Heyward, a friend of Bo.

The updated post draws on a wider set of information sources, including links with Chinese language sites where English language translations are available.

November 8th 2012

WEstern news reports indicate link between murdered businessman Neil Hayward and British security forces

October 26th 2012

Bo expelled from Parliament but unlikely to stand trial before upcoming elections

October 22nd 2012

Interesting debate on a wide range of issues , including the Bo Jilai affair

September 28th 2012

Bo Jilai expelled from the Chinese Communist party . Western reports drawing on sources within China suggest that dealing with Bo Jilai has become a major consideration within efforts to arrange a smooth transition to new leadership.

September 24th

The story continues with the trial and conviction of Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun for 15 years in prison finding him guilty of “bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking.”

August 2012

The post has been updated to report the series of events leading to Gu’s arrest for murder, and her being given a suspended death penalty. There is little news of Bo Jilai. Commentators inside China suggest there is little public coverage, and little sympathy for the victim who is portayed as involved in a financial scam or blackmail extorting money from Gu Kailai.

May 10th

Francis Fukuyama speculates that Bo was ousted on fears he might become ‘the next Mao’

The Indian Express challenges theory of Chinese resilient autocracy. (effective succession planning)

May 9th

Korea Times argues that the tensions in China including the Bo Xilai case may lead to ‘recalibrating’ of foreign policy towards North Korea

May 7th

New York Times evaluates Bo Xilai as brilliant…ruthless…[with a ] penchant for power and glory [which] earned him powerful enemies.

May 6th

More rumours of the defection of Police chief Wang which triggered the Bo Xilai political downfall.

[Posted in advance of cover date, May 14th by Time Magazine]. An in depth analysis argues that China’s move to technocratic leadership is becoming re-politicised

May 4th

Bo Xilai and Chen Guangchen stories examined by Voice of Russia for Eurasiaview

May 3rd

Thoughtful analysis of ‘The Bo Xilai crisis’ by The Toronto Star

May 1st

Western sources appear to contradict the story of Bo Guagua and the red Ferrari .

April 30th

Gu Kailai asked a British firm to accept a secret £150,000 over-payment and to use the money to pay her son’s school fees at Harrow, a former company director alleges

April 28th The Western media have shown diminished coverage of the Bo Xilai story. Attention has switched to his wayward son Bo Guagua. There is also some mention of Guagua’s half brother Li Wangzhi.

April 27th

Bo Guagua: Not a Ferrari but a Porsche says Wall Street journal

Details of the driving offences from the English version of Elenco Notizie, Italy.

April 26th

Western news reports claim Bo was involved in phone monitoring of China’s top politicians including President Hu Jintao

April 25th

Police chief Wang Lijun had told US officials that Mrs Gu was directly involved in Heyward’s murder by cyanide

Bo Guagua defends his life style in Harvard newsletter but avoids reference to the broader Bo Xilai story

April 24th

Other stories seem to be supplanting this one for global interest. The BBC China Round Up gives a dozen other URLs but no mention of the Bo Xilai one.

April 22nd

Reuters report [April 17th, 2012] China’s Bo backed, then blocked murder probe against his wife

April 21st

A US-based Chinese-language website that has reported extensively on the Bo Xilai scandal in China says it was crippled for several hours by a concerted hacking attack.

April 20th

A BBC TV report widens accusations against Bo Xilai.

April 19th

Business Week claims Bo Xilai Son Not in Custody, Remains at Harvard

NTV report based on Chinese websites examines mutual accusations between Bo Xilai and Chinese security chief Zhou Yongkang. Photo of Zhou from Xinhua via Want China Times, Taiwan

As state officials attempt to control the story, the Chinese blogosphere has devised its own coded language to circumvent censorship.

April 18th
Prime Minister David Cameron and politburo member Li Changchun hold constructive talks in London.

Foreign Minister issues written statement about the Heyward case and is quizzed in Parliament.

BBC updates its reporting

April 17th

Western reports turn attention to lavish lifestyle of Go and Gu’s son, Bo Guagua. Image is of a Ferrari which crashed in Beijing and was allegedly that of Bo Guagua.

The Shanghaist considers the (British) Daily Telegraph a good source of information on the developing story of “our favourite playboy”, and reports his possible asylum bid being helicoptered from Harvard.

The BBC reports that Prime Minister David Cameron will raise the issue of Mr Heywood’s death today at a meeting in Downing Street to discuss trade, cultural and education links with politburo member Li Changchun.

New York Times also reports on story

April 16th

English East Day outlines official Chinese statement on the way the investigation into Bo Xilai and the arrest of his wife Bogu Kailai has been conducted through the rule of law in China.

‘Unconfirmed’ reports in British tabloids such as the Daily Mail suggest Heyward had an affair with Gu Kailai

The Australian claims Heyward will be named a spy for MI6 based in contacts with intelligence gathering agency founded by former MI6 employee.

April 15th

Heyward’s death linked to murder by suicide

April 14th

More about the life style of Bo Guangua

April 13th

Freedomnewsgroup provides English language links of the developing story.

Daily Times of Pakistan reports that China has deleted thousands of online posts over ‘rumours’ and temporarily closed others for ‘rectification’.

A post from the Economist gives more background to the story

New York Times adds a few more details to earlier accounts

August 22nd

Bo Xilai goes on trial. A long-running drama reaches a critical stage.

Sept 22nd 2013

Bo Xi Lai trial trial ends with life sentence. Wall Street Journal assesses political implications

The rise and fall of Bo Jilai and Gu Kailai

April 12, 2012

The rise and fall of the charismatic political leader Bo Jilai provides an insight into political leadership processes in contemporary China. The story took on an additional twist with the prosecution of his wife and one-time celebrity lawyer Gu Kailai, for the alleged murder of British businessman Neil Heyward, a friend of Bo.

Jonathan Fenby of the Guardian provides background to the story. [April 10th 2012]

Though he had cut a swath for the past five years with his promotion of his mega-city of Chongqing, complete with the singing of old patriotic songs, Bo was (a) too flamboyant and uncontrolled a figure to be tolerated by the consensus board that runs China, and (b) lacked solid factional support. He was too much of an individualist in a system that works by committee. Whatever fame it brought him, his ambition made him vulnerable in the end. [But] Bo fell because he was too much of a tall poppy and lacked allies – his handling of the fall-out from Heywood’s death in a Chongqing hotel room was also exceedingly clumsy.

Gu Kailai and the Neil Heywood murder case

The downfall of Bo was spectacular enough, but then the story took on a more sinister tone with the arrest of his wife Gu Kailai for the death of Neil Hayward

Gu, Bo’s second wife, seems to have much in common with her husband. Like him she is known as charismatic, eloquent and bold. She forged a high-profile career as a lawyer, which she bolstered with two books on her successes representing a well-known sports coach and Chinese firms challenging a US court judgment.
Like [her husband] she comes from party aristocracy: although her mother was descended from a famous Song dynasty minister, her father, Gu Jingsheng, was a renowned Communist general. But as her husband climbed the political ladder, Gu’s public profile declined dramatically. Bo told reporters last month [March 2012] that she gave up her career two decades ago so she could not be accused of benefiting from his position.

She is thought to have spent much of her time in the UK, where their son studied at Papplewick, a prep school in Ascot; Harrow and then Oxford University from 2000. It is understood Gu had suffered from depression in recent years, and it is thought she may also have sought treatment in Britain.

Heywood, who told friends he got to know the family after writing to several leaders in Dalian to introduce himself, said he had helped arrange [their son] Bo Guagua’s education. According to the Wall Street Journal, he was among a small group of friends and advisers on whom Gu relied in recent years.

The Guardian editorial

In a subsequent editorial, The Guardian described the developing story as evidence of irrevocable changes in China through its economic transition and the inevitable transparency of an era of Social Media.

What was it over? The investigation into the murder Neil Heywood, in which Bo’s wife Gu Kailai was strongly implicated? The rise of an opportunist princeling, who had turned a city with the population the size of Canada’s into a massive personal springboard to national fame? It took more than a month from the incident which started all this, the dramatic flight of Bo’s former ally and police chief Wang Lijun to the nearest US consulate, to the removal of Bo as Chongqing chief. Another few weeks elapsed until Bo was dismissed from the politburo. Obviously Wang’s allegations against his former boss had to be investigated. But there must also have been one big bust-up, as rival party barons settled scores over the seat in the standing committee that Bo will now never occupy.

The fall of Bo tells us about the ability of the communist leadership to manage change. The Brutal factional politics can no longer be concealed behind a screen. It is duplicated in real-time all over millions of them. The second is that, whether or not Bo’s fall was accidental or triggered by forces outside Chongqing, the myth that the grey, collective, consensus-led leadership can carry on business as usual has been temporarily dented, if not permanently shattered. The next generation of leaders faces such massive that it patently cannot carry on business as usual. Third, Bo’s rise and fall came amid a steady crescendo of debate about the need for reform, political as well as economic.

Through Western Eyes

I have drawn mostly on the excellent Guardian coverage of the breaking story. More information and video links can be found through the [US] lonedaysite. However, I am conscious of the perils of reporting only through the Western media sources. Through western eyes, accounts have the density of a John le Carré political novel and with a dash of Lewis Carroll.


The image of Bo and Gu is from www.wantchinatimes.com where it is attributed to an internet photograph.