Bo Yibo, one of the original "Eight Immortals" of Chinese Communist Party lore, has, in defiance of his nickname, died at age 98. Or was he 99? Perhaps state media were counting his age in the traditional Chinese fashion, under which you are one year old at birth — or perhaps they just thought 99 sounded better than 98. Let us know your theory.
Bo Yibo was the last of the not-so-Immortals to give up the ghost:
As one of the elderly but immensely influential party veterans who hovered above the country’s appointed leadership in the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Bo helped Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader who died in 1997, overcome elite opposition to capitalist-style economic reforms.
Also like Deng, Mr. Bo had little tolerance for political liberalization. He played an important role in purging Hu Yaobang, a popular party leader who favored faster political change, in 1987. Mr. Bo also defended the army crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989, which left hundreds of people dead.
The Eight Immortals were an informal group of senior Communist Party leaders who were purged during Mao’s Cultural Revolution but experienced a second political life after Mr. Deng’s return to power in 1978.
The South China Morning Post (subscription required) calls his death the "end of an era" in which old-guard revolutionaries "pulled the strings" in China.
He is also famous as the dad of celebrated princeling and current party bigwig Bo Xilai, who, if you believe this SCMP article, came up from being a lowly mayor of Dalian and governor of Liaoning province to become Minister of Commerce all under his own steam — almost:
"Mr Bo’s political rise was well expected, and as one of the most prominent princelings, he has overshadowed others including Xi Zhongxun’s son, Xi Jingping , and Chen Yun’s son, Chen Yuan," Professor Cheng said, adding that he did not think Mr Bo had benefited much from his father’s influence. "Based on Mr Bo’s age and his current position, I don’t think his father helped him so much."
Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-sui also said Mr Bo’s achievements came from his personal efforts and other reasons rather than his father’s influence. "Times have changed. In today’s China, it’s impossible for one person to act on his will during the major reshuffles," Mr Lau said.
Bo the younger, who has a reputation as something of a slickster, has defended his position with, if you ask me, rather backhanded (and slightly unfilial?) comments:
"I never denied that I have benefited from my father," Mr Bo told the People’s Daily, recalling that time.
"Thanks to my father, I was sent to prison when I was still a high school student. The five years of my life in jail was a special gift of fate and a rare experience for me from which I truly benefited."