‘Bungling’ China VP takes reins while Hu visits US

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By WANG WEI
Political Correspondent

Bo's habit of smiling in public has baffled fellow Politburo members

BEIJING (China Daily Show) – While US President Barack Obama treats his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao to a lavish four-day state visit, it will be left to Mr Hu’s unambitious Vice-President, Bo Xidan – or “Bungling Bo” as he is better known – to look after the People’s Republic in his absence.

Bo acquired his affectionate nickname after a series of public-relations howlers, which include asking a bewildered Rajiv Gandhi if Tibet was “still part of India,” and remains  one of China’s best-loved political figures, despite – or perhaps because of – his gaffe-prone public persona.

His most notorious slip-ups include encouraging a hospitalized self-immolation victim to “get up and walk,” challenging then-President Vladimir Putin of Russia to a kung fu contest and spilling an entire bowl of steaming-hot noodles into Japanese Foreign Minister Ngo Kamagochi’s lap during a state banquet.

It was this final act that sealed Bo’s  place in the nation’s hearts and made him politically invulnerable.

Bo’s rise to power was prompted by a close relationship with Deng Xiaoping’s son, Deng Pufang, who took sympathy with Bo after the latter suffered repeated bullying from other cadres’ sons.

This led him into President Jiang Zhemin’s sphere of influence, who found Bo’s pratfalls, slips-of-the-tongue and pinpoint slapstick timing the ideal antidote to the Politburo’s dour back-room image.

Bo’s meteoric rise to power reached its peak with his appointment to the Vice-Presidency in 2002, in charge of Public Affairs. This powerful political post put the good-natured buffoon in complete charge of a wide-ranging domestic brief, including much-needed reform of China’s outdated national hukou (household registration) system, overhauling its aging health service and investigating official corruption.

After his expected retirement in 2012, “China’s Mr Bean” is set to join fellow Vice-President Joe Biden and former UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in a goodwill tour of the Middle East, dubbed “The Three Talents.”

Tickets for the events, billed as the “Prince Philip of tours,” are already said to be exchanging hands for thousands of dollars.

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