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Speech to touch on China scandal

| Wednesday, June 27, 2012, 12:09 a.m.
Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP
Bo Xilai, the former party secretary of Chongqing, was removed from the position when his wife was accused in the death a British businessman. AP

China expert Thomas Sanderson said he expects the Chinese couple once portrayed as the new version of John and Jackie Kennedy to be tried by the time the Communist nation announces new leadership later this year.

“The leadership needs to make a point that corruption will not be tolerated at the top,” Sanderson, co-director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said of the arrests of former Politburo member Bo Xilai and his wife, Gu Kailai.

The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh will host a discussion by Sanderson on Bo's situation, Chinese naval tension with the Philippines, a slowing economy and other issues at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Bricolage, 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

Sanderson said the Bo scandal has rocked China like few others in recent history, and it occurs amid increasing signs that the powerful Chinese growth engine is slowing.

The Chinese public widely senses corruption in the top reaches of the Communist party, and the “party is sensitive to that perception,” he said.

Communist Party leaders are expected to meet in October or November at the Party Congress to elect a new set of leaders. Xi Jinping is widely expected to replace a retiring Hu Jintao as head of the world's most populous country.

Bo, who was formerly party boss of the mega-city of Chongqing, was forced out of the Politburo after his police chief tried to defect to an American consulate. An ensuing investigation implicated Bo's wife in money laundering and the murder of a British businessman.

Considered one of China's leading politicians, Bo will face trial soon and could face serious consequences if investigators find he played a significant role in Gu's affairs, Sanderson predicted. Before his downfall in March, Bo was talked about as a possible member of China's nine-person Standing Committee, the highest body in the land.

His downfall also showed that Chinese officials are having an increasingly difficult time controlling information, as rumors of Bo's fall and reports of an attempted coup spread rapidly through Chinese microblogs, Sanderson told the Trib.

Money is also increasingly leaving the country, something that has happened in the past at the time of planned leadership changes in China, he said.

Cost to attend Sanderson's talk is $15 for council members and $25 for non-members and includes food and beverages. To register, call 412-281-7970 or visit www.worldpittsburgh.org.

Lou Kilzer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5620 or lkilzer@tribweb.com

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