BEIJING (Reuters) – With ousted senior politician Bo Xilai jailed for life, Chinese President Xi Jinping has stamped his authority on the Communist Party by effectively warning he will not tolerate dissent as he seeks to push through tough economic reforms.
Bo was sentenced yesterday after being found guilty on charges of corruption, taking bribes and abuse of power. He is expected to appeal, although since all courts are controlled by the party the verdict was likely pre-ordained.
“It’s (like) killing one to warn a hundred,” a source with ties to the leadership told Reuters.
The ideological fractures exposed last year by Bo’s fall from grace had hobbled Xi, forcing him to row back on an ambitious plan to rebalance the world’s second largest economy, sources close to China’s leadership have told Reuters.
The party’s fear had been that Bo’s supporters, who lauded him for the old-school leftist social welfare policies he championed as boss of the city of Chongqing, could remain a brake on reforms that favour private businesses and a greater reliance on market forces.
Xi needed the Bo affair settled because the next few weeks are critical for his government, which took office in March.
At a closed-door party plenum in November, Xi will push for more economic reforms and he needs unstinting support from the party’s elite 200-member Central Committee.
The reforms Xi wants include opening up the banking sector to let in private players and interest rate reform and introducing more competition in key industries dominated by state-owned giants, such as in the energy and telecommunications sectors, sources say.
Leftists are deeply suspicious of private enterprise and market reforms, believing they have led to the income inequality and the anything-goes economic growth that China grapples with today.
“For other senior officials, I think this is intimidating because the plenum is coming up,” said Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political commentator and historian.