Editor's note: This is the 13th of a series on Bo Xilai. This series will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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CHONGQING, China--A closed panel discussion was held on Sept. 27, 2011, a time when Bo Xilai had gained the admiration of the masses as secretary of the Chongqing municipal Communist Party committee.
Bo’s popularity among the Chongqing public had grown to such a level that he seemed to feel he had carte blanche for all of his policies, even if they ran counter to those coming from Beijing.
For the discussion in Chongqing, Bo had invited a dozen or so scholars from Beijing and elsewhere to give their opinions about his municipal government, according to one of the participants.
As expected, the guests lavished praise on Bo because the Chongqing political campaign to sing stirring revolutionary songs had attracted national attention, and Bo was expected to be included among the highest leadership echelon at the Communist Party National Congress scheduled for autumn 2012.
However, one final comment by a media executive changed the mood of the meeting.
The executive backed the economic reforms of the central government, putting him at odds with the programs Bo was pushing in Chongqing.
"It would probably be better to slightly weaken the ideological coloring that can remind people of the Cultural Revolution," the executive said.
Bo glared at the executive and said: "My father was toppled during the Cultural Revolution and I myself was thrown in prison. I should probably hate the Cultural Revolution. But I have reached the conclusion that there is a need in today's China to pursue the course that was sought by Mao Tse-tung."
In the shadow of China’s rapid economic development, ethics deteriorated and wealth disparity widened.
But Bo promoted policies to return some of the benefits of economic development to the poorer people, putting into practice his words calling for a return to Mao's course.
The effort was dubbed the "Chongqing model," and the measures to redistribute wealth gained the support of a wide range of people who felt a sense of unfairness in the central government’s actions.
One example of Bo's efforts is an area on the outskirts of Chongqing where many high-rise apartments have been built next to a monorail station that stands ready for the start of operations. The public housing project was initiated by Bo to provide affordable housing for those in the lower income brackets.
Bo's popularity among residents of the apartment complex remains strong even after his downfall.
"Bo made the ordinary people affluent," said Fang Xinping, 67 and unemployed, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment with his wife. “I don't know what kind of crime he may have committed, but I think it is wrong to negate all of his achievements."
Bo had plans to construct housing for about 2 million people that would allow them pay rents that were 60 percent of the going market rate. One of his other policy measures to help the disadvantaged was a subsidy program to support migrant workers who returned to Chongqing to start their own businesses.
Such programs were nothing less than a direct challenge to those on the central leadership who had been pushing a course that placed priority on economic development based on the teaching of Deng Xiaoping. In their view, there was nothing wrong with having some people become economically successful before others.
President Hu Jintao showed that central leaders were unhappy with Bo's policies by not making a single trip to Chongqing to inspect Bo’s four years of achievements in the city.
But Bo’s policies to help the poor came at a price. The Chongqing municipal government’s expenditures increased rapidly, and its fiscal deficit reached about three times the level for Beijing.
The free spending ways led one city government source to say, "We have used up the budgets for 20 years in the future."
Another reason that Bo was so free to do as he pleased in Chongqing was a political campaign that had nothing to do with revolutionary songs.
That campaign was designed to eradicate organized crime from the city.
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The previous installments of this series are available at:
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