Bo Guagua: The student playboy whose lavish lifestyle could be his downfall - as father Bo Xilai faces prosecution

 

His father’s political implosion will soon pass into Chinese folklore, as will the machinations of his mother, who has been convicted of murdering a British businessman to cover up a web of corruption.

But as the high profile trial of Bo Xilai - once tipped for Chinese Communist Party leadership - draws to a close, the fate of his wayward son Bo Guagua seems precarious.

He has failed to shake off his reckless playboy image, which caused substantial embarrassment for the Chinese government. From a Western perspective, Guagua may well seem a charismatic figure with a healthy interest in pretty girls and late-night parties. But while such puerile stunts as cavorting in sports or being photographed apparently urinating on an Oxford college’s front gate may raise few eyebrows in Britain, they are a shocking departure from protocol in the socially conservative Far East.

Now enrolled at Columbia Law School after a checkered period at Oxford and Harvard, the fun-loving Guagua is in an unenviable position. He can return to his homeland, where both parents face lengthy prison sentences, or try to build a new life of exile in the United States.

The former could already be in jeopardy, with one Chinese government-owned newspaper calling for him to be hauled back to Beijing on corruption charges. It has fuelled speculation that Guagua, though he played no direct role in his parents’ crimes, may have unwittingly benefited from their allegedly ill-gotten gains to fund a gilded lifestyle at top universities across the globe.

Now he risks paying the price for infuriating Party leaders, and in spite of all that has befallen the son of one of China’s most powerful men, some fear the worst is yet to come.

Guagua kept a low profile during his father’s trial, but his allegedly decadent lifestyle cropped up repeatedly. He has rejected the playboy label in various press statements, even claiming in one interview with a Chinese newspaper that he lived in a north Oxford 'slum area' while studying politics, philosophy and economics at Balliol College.

Yet few are fooled by the 25 year-old’s insistence he leads a frugal life, least of all those who crossed Guagua’s path during his spending spree at Oxford. Champagne parties in his college room were a regular fixture on the social calendar, while one former classmate recalls how Guagua purchased membership of the University’s Conservative Association with a crisp fifty pound note, taken from a wallet stuffed full of them.

My own student newspaper at Oxford had a keen interest in the Chinese boy wonder and made him a regular feature of its gossip column, splashing again and again on his escalating largesse.

'One is hard pressed to find a better microcosm for Chinese-Western relations than the terminally spending Guagua Bo,' one entry reads. 'He topped the most recent round of student elections and is currently investigating whether he could install a Jacuzzi in the President’s office, for when the time comes.'

Another alludes to Guagua’s lofty connections in the Chinese political sphere. Featured in a list of the University’s most notorious students, his profile quips: 'His grandfather was part of Mao’s inner circle and his father is a Chinese government minister. Now Bo is looking for a Cultural Revolution in Frewin Court (Oxford’s debating society premises) and preparing a lengthy list of degenerates in need of re-education.'

His charisma and seemingly fathomless pockets even led to the coinage of a new verb at Oxford, 'to Guagua', meaning 'to seize power through smooth pleasantries, overwhelming financial might and the uncertain knowledge of what will happen to your family if you fail to please'.

Then there was the issue of Guagua’s 'strained relationship with books', as the student newspaper put it. It was a relationship that landed the then-undergraduate in hot water with his tutors and saw him suspended from the University for not working hard enough.

“The Chinese ambassador came to Balliol with some Chinese secret service guys to say that it was embarrassing for his father,” a former classmate told The Mail on Sunday shortly after the Bo Xilai scandal erupted. Amazingly, being excluded from the university did not prevent him sitting exams and receiving a 2:1 degree, spawning rumors of special treatment for one of Oxford’s most well-heeled students.

Yet money cannot protect him from the wrath of his homeland’s Communist rulers, for whom recently published photos of the young 'princeling' partying in New York may well be the last straw.

The outlook is bleak: stranded abroad and hounded by the media, his parents are in jail and Beijing has sent warning that they would like him to join them.

Ostensibly his connection to the family corruption is the hook China will use to attempt to drag Guagua back to the mainland. But some netizens on Chinese social media are convinced it is also payback for the international embarrassment the young Mr Bo’s cavorting and partying has wrought on the government.

Should they prove to be correct, Bo Guagua’s early years could become the government’s pet cautionary tale for Chinese teenagers, writ in large characters and international intrigue, of the Facebook generation’s lack of foresight when it comes to sharing their lives with the masses online.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Software Developer i...

AER Teachers: Graduate Primary TA - West London - Autumn

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: The school is seeking gra...

AER Teachers: Graduate Secondary TA - West London

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: The school is seeking gra...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Surrey - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Croy...

SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent