Bo Yibo

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Bo Yibo
Bo Yibo, aged 38, c. 1946
Vice Chairman of the Central Advisory Commission
In office
Serving with Xu Shiyou, Tan Zhenlin, Li Weihan, Song Renqiong
Leader Deng Xiaoping
Chen Yun
Vice Premier of the PRC
In office
Premier Zhou Enlai
In office
Premier Hua Guofeng
Zhao Ziyang
Minister of Fiance of the PRC
In office
Succeeded by Deng Xiaoping
Personal details
Born 17 February 1908(1908-02-17)
Dingxiang, Xinzhou, Shanxi, Qing Empire
Died 15 January 2007(2007-01-15) (aged 98)
Beijing, People's Republic of China
Relations Bo Xiyin (eldest daughter)
Bo Jieyin (second daughter)
Bo Xiyong (eldest son)
Bo Xilai (second son)
Bo Xiaoyin (third daughter)
Bo Xicheng (third son)
Bo Xilin (fourth son)

Bo Guagua (grandson)
Alma mater Central Party School of the Communist Party of China
Bo Yibo
Chinese 薄一波

Bo Yibo (17 February 1908 – 15 January 2007) was a Chinese politician and one of the Eight Elders of the Communist Party of China. He was one of the most powerful hard-liners along with Li Xiannian, Wang Zhen and Chen Yun.

He was alternate member and then member of the Politburo, deputy prime minister, chairman of State Economic Commission and vice-chairman of Central Advisory Commission of the Communist Party of China. Bo was one of the revolutionary veterans purged by the Mao Zedong-backed Gang of Four who returned to power after Mao's death.

Bo Yibo was born in Taiyuan, Shanxi, in 1908. He joined the CPC in 1925, at the age of 17. He first surfaces in 1925 as CPC secretary of the party branch at Shanxi Civic Teachers’ College, and later deputy secretary and secretary of the party committee in Northern Taiyuan.[1] In 1927, Bo became CPC secretary-general of the Northern Bureau of the Central Military Commission.[2] A year later, he was secretary for military affairs of the Tianjin CPC Committee and chief of the military committee for North China.[3] He was captured by Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang police in 1931 and, under orders from the CPC, signed an anti-communist confession. After his release, he returned to Shanxi where he became secretary of the provincial party working group[4] in 1936 and was instrumental in recuriting warlord Yan Xishan to the communist cause. Bo joined the final stages of the Long March.[5]

Bo was one of a select group of powerful veterans centred around late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping who were informally known as the Eight Immortals for the vast influence they commanded until gradually succumbing to old age and death mostly in the 1990s. By some reckonings Bo was the last immortal to – in Deng’s phrase – “go to meet Marx”, but he is survived by 93-year-old Wan Li, another former vice-premier widely considered to have been one of the eight.[6]

Pre-1949 Career

During the Yan'an era, Bo was Executive Vice Chair of the Shanxi border region and Vice Chair of its CPC committee. His career from the late 1930s into the 1950s was closely aligned with that of Liu Shaoqi. In 1947, Bo’s Jin-Yi-Lu-Yu Bureau was merged with General (later Marshal) Nie Rongzhen’s Jin-Cha-Ji Bureau into the new CCP North China Bureau. General Nie ran military affairs, and although Liu Shaoqi was nominally in charge of the party and government, his duties elsewhere gave daily control to Bo.

This North China organization eventually evolved into the core of the national government established 1 October 1949. Among the North Bureau’s key players were Peng Zhen, An Ziwen, Lu Dingyi, Liu Lantao, Liao Luyan and Yang Xianzhen.[7]

Post-1949 Career

In the first years after 1949, Bo was Minister of Finance, a position he lost in December 1953 to his political ally of the time, Deng Xiaoping. His ouster was as much the result of a factional dispute with Gao Gang and Rao Shushi as it was about fiscal policies deemed insufficiently pro-state.

Later in the 1950s, he was among the veteran planners resisting Mao Zedong’s economic policies. Others in opposition to the Great Leap Forward and similar extreme economic measures included Chen Yun, Li Xiannian, Li Fuchun and Yao Yilin. Despite this, Bo served as Vice Chair (1952–1956) and later Chair (1956–1959) of the State Planning Commission, where he presided over the economic policies of the Great Leap Forward.[citation needed]

Bo Yibo was a member of the CPC Politburo from the 8th National Party Congress in 1956 to the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, and again in the early Deng Xiaoping era, from 1979 until the 12th National Party Congress in 1982, when most of the elders retired.

During the Cultural Revolution, Bo was imprisoned as a political prisoner by Jiang Qing, Chairman Mao's wife, for his pro-democratic activities and for advocating freedom of trade with western countries. He was held in a prison under the worst conditions available for fifteen years, during which time his wife was beaten to death. His sons and daughters were either imprisoned (e.g. Bo Xiyong, Bo Xilai and Bo Xicheng, at the ages of sixteen, seventeen and seventeen again respectively) or sent to some of the poorest places in China (e.g. Bo Xining, at the age of fourteen). On 9 February 1967, a large struggle rally targeting Bo was held in Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium. Bo was reportedly more defiant than other Cultural Revolution victims, demanding (unsuccessfully) to be allowed to speak in his own defense. Bo was tortured by the Red Guard during most of 1967.[8]

Bo Yibo's important contributions to Chinese economic reform were mainly in the early 1980s, when the reform was at its difficult time in its infancy. During the debate on whether aspects of a free market economy should be allowed or not, Bo was firmly on the reformers' side. Once various aspects of a free market economy were allowed, the hardline conservatives attempted to restrict their scope by limiting the maximum number of employees a private enterprise could have: no more than eight according to these orthodox Marxists, because any more than that number would constitute exploitation of the laboring class by profit-making capitalists. Bo Yibo's support for private enterprise was instrumental in helping to defeat the hardline conservatives' attempt to thwart market reform.

Bo's further support of economic reform came as a result of one of his trips in the 1980s to Boeing's facilities in the United States. During his visit, Bo discovered that there were only two airplanes parked at the facility. He asked the Boeing executives whether there would be any left if the two that he saw were gone. The company's executives answered that two was the exact number they wanted at this particular time because their production is based on customers' order and anything more than necessary would be a waste of money and other resources. After this visit to Boeing, Bo became much more critical of the Chinese practice of a planned economy, accurately pointing out that excesses of production were in fact a waste of resources. Even for a planned economy, the planning should be based on market demand instead of on rigid Soviet-style planning undertaken without regard to market forces.

Despite his support for economic reforms, Bo was by no means a political reformer like Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, Wan Li and Hu Qili: after the 1982 12th National Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Bo was kicked upstairs to the vice chairmanship (equal to politburo rank) of the toothless CPC Central Advisory Committee, but remained instrumental in removing CPC Secretary General Hu Yaobang from power. He returned to a leadership position when he urged a crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and actively supported the removal of Zhao Ziyang.

Bo died of old age at almost 99 at Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing.


His son Bo Xilai is a member of the "Crown Prince Party" and was formerly the Communist Party Committee Secretary in Chongqing until his disgrace in the spring of 2012. The rest of Bo Yibo's children obtained foreign residency, for example his daughter, who became an American citizen and resides in the U.S.


  1.; hereafter, “Bio.”
  3. Bio.
  4. Bio.
  5. Kahn, Joseph, "Bo Yibo, leader who helped reshape China’s economy, dies", The New York Times / International Herald Tribune, 16 January 2007.; and Gittings, John, "Bo Yibo, Veteran Chinese Leader and ‘immortal’ whose loyalty to the party survived its purges", The Guardian, 24 January 2007
  6. The term "Eight Immortals" comes from Chinese myth and legend. They are worshiped by Daoists, but are also a popular element in secular Chinese culture. It is equivalent to saying Three Musketeers or Robin Hood in relation to events in modern Western politics.
  7. Huang Jing, Factionalism in Chinese Communist Politics, Cambridge University Press, 2000. p. 150.
  8. Wu Linquan and Peng Fei, “Bo Yibo Has an Attitude Problem,” in Schoenhals, Michael, Editor, China’s Cultural Revolution, 1966–1969: Not A Dinner Party, M.E. Sharpe, 1996, pp. 122–135.

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Minister of Finance of the People's Republic of China
Succeeded by
Deng Xiaoping

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