RISE AND FALL: China's 'Iron Lady' had it in for Bo Xilai

August 06, 2012

By NOZOMU HAYASHI/ Correspondent

Editor's note: This is the 11th of a series on Bo Xilai. This series will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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BEIJING--She earned the moniker "Iron Lady" for her no-nonsense approach and her tough negotiating style with the United States over intellectual property rights. Even underneath her modest retirement speech, Wu Yi showed that it was unwise to mess with her.

"I will leave with nothing and cut all ties with any sort of work," she said in December 2007 at the Great Hall of the People, announcing her retirement as Chinese vice premier. "Thank you, everyone."

Her use of the term "leave with nothing" indicated she would not even seek an honorary post after retirement.

But a number of high-ranking Communist Party officials now agree that Wu did, in fact, attach one condition on her retirement.

"The condition was to not name Bo Xilai, who was commerce minister at the time, as her successor as vice premier," one of those officials said.

There are a number of theories on why Wu, a rare female Cabinet minister in China, had such a disliking for Bo.

"Through the way Bo acted, Wu sensed arrogance on his part because he did not listen to the opinions of others," said a company owner, who became knowledgeable about Ministry of Commerce matters through a senior ministry official from the same part of China.

In Chinese ministries, bureaucrats normally rise within a specific bureau or department to heighten their expertise in a specific field.

However, at the Ministry of Commerce, personnel transfers that ignored such practice became much more common after Bo took over the minister’s post.

Bo would also frequently call high-ranking officials late at night to harshly scold them. Wu learned about the dissatisfaction among senior ministry officials, including bureau directors, with how Bo was running the ministry.

Another theory is that Wu never forgave Bo for upstaging her on a visit to the United States. Bo was part of Wu’s accompanying group, but rather than remain in the background, he took center stage, leading to media reports that the negotiations went smoothly only because of Bo's wit.

Other high-ranking Communist Party officials cited political reasons for why Wu despised Bo.

When Wu was deputy mayor of Beijing, the mayor at the time looked favorably upon her.

However, when the Beijing mayor was later ousted over corruption allegations, speculation arose that Bo Yibo, Bo's father who once served as vice premier, had pulled some strings behind the scenes.

Those who subscribe to this theory feel that Wu's anger over the downfall of a former superior led to her disdain for Bo Xilai.

Bo Yibo died in January 2007. After the Communist Party Congress in October 2007, Bo Xilai was named secretary of the Chongqing municipal Communist Party committee.

Meanwhile, Bo's younger political rivals, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, were named Politburo standing committee members. The nine members form the core supreme leadership of the Communist Party.

For that reason, Bo's move to Chongqing had the appearance of banishment from the capital.

The party congress, where major changes are made in the central party leadership, is held once every five years. From an age standpoint, the congress scheduled for autumn 2012 would be the last chance for Bo to make a move to reach the highest echelons of party leadership.

Bo chose Chongqing, his new posting, as the venue from which he would try to stage a comeback.

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The previous installments of this series are available at:

(1) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/china/AJ201207130069

(2) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/china/AJ201207160011

(3) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/china/AJ201207180021

(4) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/china/AJ201207200004

(5) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/china/AJ201207230010

(6) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/china/AJ201207250006

(7) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/china/AJ201207270011

(8) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/china/AJ201207300004

(9) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/china/AJ201208010001

(10) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/china/AJ201208030001

By NOZOMU HAYASHI/ Correspondent
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Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi announces her retirement in December 2007. (Provided by ChinaVisual.com Inc.)

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi announces her retirement in December 2007. (Provided by ChinaVisual.com Inc.)

  • Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi announces her retirement in December 2007. (Provided by ChinaVisual.com Inc.)

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