Editor's note: This is the fifth of a series on Bo Xilai. This series will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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DALIAN, China--A large white bus parks next to the People's Square in central Dalian and a side door opens up like a bird spreading its wing. Four tall female police officers wearing sunglasses emerge from the bus, leading horses by their reins.
With sabers dangling by their sides, the four officers straddle the horses and slowly circle the square's lawn of about 120,000 square meters. Curious sightseers take photos.
The unusual scene is a legacy of Bo Xilai’s work as Dalian mayor to beautify the coastal city.
When Bo left as deputy secretary of the Jin county Communist Party committee to become Dalian mayor in 1993, the city was a mess.
Liaoning province, of which Dalian was a part, had many state-owned companies left behind in the wave of economic reform and open-door policy that swept other parts of the country.
The unemployment rate in the province was higher than the national average. Environmental pollution was a serious problem due to the prominence of companies in the heavy industry sector.
Bo tried to erase the image of Dalian as a dirty municipality and strove to live up to his slogan of a "beautiful Dalian."
He tore down old factories and barracks and planted trees along the streets. During the eight years Bo served as mayor and secretary of the municipal Communist Party committee, more than 80 public squares were constructed in the city.
"The ratio of greenery reached 40 percent," a municipal government document proudly stated.
The mayor increased the number of sewage treatment facilities as part of a campaign to purify the city’s 40 foul rivers. He also pushed ahead with construction of rental housing for those in lower income brackets. In total, housing for 450,000 people was constructed.
Dalian received an award from the United Nations for improving the living conditions of its residents.
When Bo was working in Jin county, which is now part of Dalian, he became known for his unusual but highly successful use of a brass band of farmers to promote a farming village in the county.
He continued to come up with offbeat ideas as Dalian mayor. For example, the squad of female police officers on horseback was the first of its kind in China.
Bo instructed the first recruits to "become the beautiful calling cards for Dalian." The average age of the first 50 female officers chosen was 23.
From the veranda of the mayor’s office that overlooked the People’s Square, Bo often watched with satisfaction as the female officers circled the lawn, a former high-ranking municipal government official said.
Bo also started an annual fashion show that attracted many celebrities. Among those who took part was Japanese designer Hanae Mori, and the guests included Ryutaro Hashimoto when he was Japan’s prime minister, and Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. secretary of state. Bo gave speeches in fluent English at the ceremonies to mark the opening of the fashion show.
As Dalian became the focus of attention within China, leaders of other municipalities began copying some of Bo’s policies.
A former high-ranking Dalian municipal government official still remembers how proud Bo was at meetings. The mayor would often say, "Dalian is a collection of jewels that I have personally and carefully polished one by one."
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The first, second, third and fourth installments of this series are available at:
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