Political Scandals as a Democratic Challenge| Political Scandals Under Responsive Authoritarianism: The Case of the Bo Xilai Trial in China

Francis L.F. Lee


This article examines the corruption scandal and trial of Chinese political leader Bo Xilai in 2012 and 2013 and the discourses associated with the scandal in the years afterward. It focuses on how mainstream media discourses portrayed the trial, discussed the problem of official corruption, and articulated the notion of the rule of law in the context of responsive authoritarianism. The Bo Xilai trial differed substantially from the typical mediated scandal event in liberal democracies. The case illustrated how political scandals in contemporary China can be occasions for power holders to present an image of being willing to address public concerns and determined to solve social problems. The analysis also suggests that political scandals can provide opportunities for the articulation and propagation of the power holders’ preferred conception of social and political reform.


political scandal, responsive authoritarianism, media discourse, rule of law, China

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