The Bo Xilai scandal and hints of a Chinese power struggle continue to grip those who understand it while the rest of us wonder why everyone involved in the scandal has such complicated names. The plot has thickened yet again. Bo Guagua, son of the once powerful Bo Xilai and a student at Harvard, has sent an open letter to his university’s newspaper to set the record straight.
Missing in action for several weeks, twenty-four year old Bo Guagua’s letter in the Harvard Crimson disappoints, reading as no more than a feeble attempt to drown out claims he was a party boy. Were these the details we were waiting for, given that Chinese media have connected him tangentially with the suspected poisoning of British businessman Neil Heywood and his mother a key suspect?
The key points from the letter: No, he does not drive a red Ferrari. He did not get favorable treatment at Oxford or Harvard. He is studious! And his education was partly paid by scholarship. What a good boy!
PR Verdict: “C” for Bo Guagua. The Crimson was always a going to be a bigger pushover than the NYTimes or one of its peers, so it was wise to go there and have his message published without edits and additional questions. But to what end?
PR Takeaway: Moving the dial in the public arena requires taking a stand. This letter speaks only of peripheral issues and oddly focuses on the author only. Not a word in support of either parent, concerns regarding the Chinese judicial system or conversely public support for the system, to curry favor with Chinese authorities. The world is only too eager to hear from the son of both a powerful government official and a mother under investigation for murder. He has the power to throw unwelcome spanners in the works. Next time he might want to give the media a little more to go on.
What’s your PR Verdict on this open letter?