Bo Xilai with his wife Gu Kailai
Not so long ago, Bo Xilai was one of China’s “princelings”, a charismatic, high-flying politician who was apparently destined for its top leadership. From his power base in Chongqing he became known for smashing organised crime, increasing foreign investment and running “revolutionary” campaigns involving singing contests and the revival of Maoist symbols.
But when in February a mafia-busting former police chief called Wang Lijun walked into the US consulate in the western city of Chengdu, he set in train a series of events that brought scandal and infighting out of the secret confines of Chinese party politics and into the public eye. The result was Mr Bo’s spectacular fall from grace and the arrest of his wife Gu Kailai – herself the daughter of a top general – on suspicion of murdering the British citizen Neil Heywood.
Cuba's one-time richest man, Julio Lobo, wearing a bow tie and guayabera. Havana c.1955
Fidel Castro may be old and infirm, but he hasn’t lost his ability to provoke and amuse. The Cuban caudillo’s latest sally is against Barack Obama and his plans to wear a guayabera – a tropical shirt that is Cuba’s official garment – during this weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Colombia. The irony is that the Communist-ruled island will not be represented at the meeting as it does not meet the democratic requirements of the Organisation of American States. Ecuador is skipping the meeting in protest.
“The curious thing, dear readers, is that Cuba is prohibited in that meeting; but the guayaberas, no. Who can stop laughing?” the 85-year old former president wrote in the latest of his rambling “Reflections”, which are published in Cuba’s official media.
The item has been picked up by several news wires. What none of them mention however (although it may be implicit) is that this time the joke is on Mr Castro.
By Gideon Rachman
“We have made Italy, now we must make Italians.” So said Massimo d’Azeglio, an Italian intellectual, just after his country’s unification in 1861. The current generation of EU politicians face a modern version of the d’Azeglio dilemma: They have made a European Union, now they must make Europeans.