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Rachel Lu

Bo Guagua – The Prodigal Melon

Did Bo Guagua, the 24-year old son of Bo Xilai, inadvertently destroy his father’s career?

Major international outlets have reported that the suspicious death of Neil Heywood, a Brit who had been described as Guagua’s English teacher, mentor, or “male nanny,” is a key element that contributed to Bo Xilai’s political downfall. As early as June 2009, Phoenix News cited an essay written by Heywood in defense of Bo Guagua’s academic record, proving a longstanding relationship. [Link in Chinese

Making matters worse for the Bo family, the Aston Martin-driving Heywood had ties to MI6. On a side note,  Tea Leaf Nation believes this means that the shaken-not-stirred Ian Fleming faction at MI6 has gained the upper hand over the tinker-tailor-soldier-spy John le Carré faction. 

Pitfalls of Fame

Guagua's happier days - with Chen Xiaodan in Tibet

Long before L’Affaire Heywood, Bo Guagua had become a celebrity in China. His claims to fame include partying it up with young women at Oxford and canoodling with the stunning Chen Xiaodan, granddaughter of Chen Yun, on a trip to Tibet in photos that have gone viral on China’s social media. He also allegedly cruised around Beijing in a red Ferrari, a rumor reported by Wall Street Journal but subsequently denied by Bo Xilai.

No one seems to be impressed with the young man’s academic achievements at the Harrow School, Oxford, and Harvard or believes Bo Xilai’s claim that Guagua received full scholarship from all of these institutions. Instead his overseas schooling has often been cited as irrefutable proof of hypocrisy since Bo Xilai preached about patriotism and commitment to the socialist system when he was the party boss of Chongqing. 

Bo Guagua certainly has the highest profile among third-generation “princelings.” One can hardly imagine the daughter of Xi Jinping, who reportedly attends Harvard College under a pseudonym, appearing on a television interview or giving a speech to Peking University students as Bo Guagua once did. 

Happier days Pt II: With Not-Chen Xiaodan at Oxford

One can’t help but suspect that Bo junior’s behavior reflects a tinge of Oedipal urge to take revenge on the man who gave him the curious name Guagua, meaning “melon melon” in Mandarin.

Of course, there is some evidence to suggest that such names are heirlooms given to scions born with red spoons in their mouths. As Guagua divulged in an interview, his cousins are named Guoguo (fruit fruit) and Taotao (peach peach). The granddaughter of Wan Li, a Communist Party elder, is successful jewelry designer Bao Bao Wan (treasure treasure). Moses Martin and Blue Ivy Carter may sympathize. 

Bo Guagua’s Weibo Account?

Bo Guagua has not been seen since his father’s political ouster on March 15. The gossipy Chinese community in Boston, where he attends Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, has not reported a sighting. What if Bo Guagua had an account on Weibo, China’s Twitter? What would he say? Well, maybe he does. Many netizens seem to believe that @BMelon is Bo Guagua’s account. 

@BMelon has only three tweets. @Dog9joker3II tweets knowingly, “Guagua has deleted a lot of tweets.” The tweet from March 7, around the days when wild speculations about his father’s political future swirled, shows three hands in prayer. On March 22, @BMelon tweeted an oblique musing on exams and the educational system along with a picture of Harvard Yard. [Update: As of April 2, @BMelon deleted all tweets.]

Regardless of the authenticity of @BMelon, Chinese netizens have left their thoughts for Guagua here. While many asked for an update on the Bo family’s whereabouts or questioned Guagua’s academic redords, others have shown support for a young man at the eye of the biggest political tornado in China since 1989.

Referring to a Daily Mail article, @vampire915 tweets with sympathy, “I have a strained relationship with books too. Come on! Be strong!” {{1}}[[1]]我和书本的关系也很紧张,加油,坚强。[[1]] @LISA–WM also showed support for the Bo family: “Guagua, take care of yourself! I support you. The Bo family has dealt with the economy since your grandfather’s days. If your father succeeds, the Chinese people will become rich!” {{2}}[[2]] 瓜瓜保重自己啊!支持你 从爷爷开始薄家就是搞经济的 你父若成 中国百姓必富![[2]]

@持之以恒创新改变生活 is curious, “If you are indeed Guagua, would you rather live in the democratic UK and US, or the leftist Chongqing (if you dad is not the leader of Chongqing)?” {{3}}[[3]] 如果你是瓜瓜,不知道你愿意生活在民主的英美,还是极左的重庆?(又如果你爸不是重庆领导的话)[[3]] If it is any indication of @BMelon‘s split loyalties, the account only follows two other Weibo accounts: the news office of the Chongqing government and the Wall Street Journal’s Chinese language site.

@茂茂是冠军 advises, “You can succeed later on in life only after you experience hardship at a young age. I think you will do well, but hope you stay far away from politics.” {{4}}[[4]]少年经磨练。成年方可成大器。看好你。但希望你要远离政治。[[4]]

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Rachel Lu

Rachel Lu is a co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation. Rachel traces her ancestry to Southern China. She spent much of her childhood memorizing Chinese poetry. After long stints in New York, New Haven and Cambridge, she has returned to China to bear witness to its great transformation. She is currently based in China.
  • http://twitter.com/mprobertson matthew robertson

    This is a bit confusing. The question we are posed at the beginning is: “Did Bo Guagua, the 24-year old son of Bo Xilai, inadvertently destroy his father’s career?” but the article does not answer that question, or even really address it. It also begins talking about Heywood, but we have no idea yet what connection that has to Bo’s downfall. After these tantalizing remarks, the rest of the piece is a backgrounder on the young Bo’s antics. 

    • Rachel@TeaLeafNation

      Hi Matthew. You mean you were able to see through all the smoke screen?? J/K. I think Bo Xilai’s downfall is ultimately his own doing (see my previous entry comparing Bo Xilai to Anakin Skywalker). His son’s behavior contributed to public perception of him as a hypocrite among his detractors and the family’s connection to Heywood was very likely the immediate cause of his sacking. Personally I hope Guagua comes out OK from this ordeal. Thanks for reading!  

      • Hauser

        Bo Xilai is one big hypocrite.

  • http://twitter.com/mprobertson matthew robertson

    This is a bit confusing. The question we are posed at the beginning is: “Did Bo Guagua, the 24-year old son of Bo Xilai, inadvertently destroy his father’s career?” but the article does not answer that question, or even really address it. It also begins talking about Heywood, but we have no idea yet what connection that has to Bo’s downfall. After these tantalizing remarks, the rest of the piece is a backgrounder on the young Bo’s antics. 

    • Rachel@TeaLeafNation

      Hi Matthew. You mean you were able to see through all the smoke screen?? J/K. I think Bo Xilai’s downfall is ultimately his own doing (see my previous entry comparing Bo Xilai to Anakin Skywalker). His son’s behavior contributed to public perception of him as a hypocrite among his detractors and the family’s connection to Heywood was very likely the immediate cause of his sacking. Personally I hope Guagua comes out OK from this ordeal. Thanks for reading!  

      • Hauser

        Bo Xilai is one big hypocrite.

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  • michelle

    The letter from Guagua to the Harvard Crimson Newspaper might be worth a read. I think he clarified some things in that letter.

  • michelle

    The letter from Guagua to the Harvard Crimson Newspaper might be worth a read. I think he clarified some things in that letter.