Editor's note: This is the third of a series on Bo Xilai. This series will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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Bo Xilai's first marriage didn't work out.
When the chaotic decade-long Cultural Revolution ended in 1976, Bo tied the knot with Li Danyu, the daughter of a once-powerful Communist Party secretary in Beijing.
Details of Bo's broken first marriage have seldom been aired by the party or state media. However, senior party officials who have known the Bo family since that era were happy to spill the beans.
In those days, the sons of Communist Party bigwigs, known as princelings, invariably wed within the same privileged class.
It remains unclear when Bo Xilai first set eyes on Li.
According to one version, they met while Bo was working at a hardware repair factory in Beijing after he was released from a labor camp.
Or alternately, they were brought together by their parents and love quickly bloomed.
They hadn't been married long when Li gave birth to a son.
By that time, Bo had quit factory work and enrolled in prestigious Peking University, which had recently resumed classes. Then, he switched to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank.
After his bitter experiences during the Cultural Revolution, Bo clearly felt his life was sweet. But the relationship quickly soured, casting a dark shadow on his life.
Desperate to put an end to the wretched marriage, Bo asked for a divorce, but Li refused, according to senior party officials with close ties to the Bo family.
Bo was eventually rescued from the predicament through his father's political ties.
Bo Yibo, a war hero who was purged during the Cultural Revolution, was rehabilitated quickly after the movement collapsed and became vice premier under his wartime friend Deng Xiaoping.
The elder Bo also became vice chairman of the party’s Central Advisory Commission, led by Deng, who had emerged as China's supreme leader after Mao Tse-tung's death in 1976. Bo Yibo came to be known as Deng's confidant.
One of his old friends recalled visiting the Li family with a message from Bo: "Xilai is the brightest of my children and I want to let him live his life as he wants. Grant him a divorce."
The message, delivered to the woman's father, Li Xuefeng, the former Beijing party secretary who fell from grace during the Cultural Revolution, also included a threat.
"Whether you can make a political comeback depends on my action."
The elder Bo's threat, backed by his political power as Deng's close aide, infuriated Li Xuefeng. Even so, the couple divorced not long afterward.
The episode must have opened Bo Xilai's eyes to the workings of political power.
Like many other princelings, Bo Xilai wormed his way out of trouble numerous times, thanks to his father's political clout.
In 1984, the younger Bo, then 35 years old, was appointed deputy party secretary of Jin county in Liaoning province, which was later incorporated into the city of Dalian.
The appointment effectively catapulted him into the ranks of the party elite.
Still, it was rather a late start.
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The first and second installments of this series are available at:
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