Since Bo's dismissal, Guagua has received added scrutiny: Pictures of him posing bare-chested with two young Caucasian women at an Oxford costume party, urinating in a park, and vacationing with the granddaughter of revolutionary veteran Chen Yun in Tibet, have circulated widely on the Chinese Internet. His father's foes have called on the government to bring Guagua back to China from the United States for investigation. "The party leadership should extradite Bo Guagua," said a Chinese journalist who was imprisoned by Bo Xilai in the 1990s. "Otherwise, he could turn into a potential threat and the current leadership would bitterly regret."
The uncertainties surrounding his father's case and talks of extradition in the media have forced the modern-day Zhao Orphan to disappear from public view. In early August, news surfaced that Bo Guagua has enrolled in Columbia University Law School. A pro-Bo princeling, who asked to speak anonymously, said the news could indicate that Bo Xilai has struck a deal with President Xi Jinping and will plead guilty to the charge of corruption. In return, Guagua will be shielded from prosecution and the Bo family would be able to preserve some of its assets overseas, including a villa in Cannes.
There is an added benefit: studying at Columbia will enable Bo Guagua to keep his legal status in the United States without applying for political asylum, and allow him the distance to nurse and meditate on his grievances. "The political calamity that befell the Bo family could be the catalyst for Bo Guagua's transformation from a dandified playboy to a man of political conviction," says Chen Xiaoping, a New York-based China scholar. "Bo's family tragedy might stoke his political ambition."
That might prove a bit optimistic, but there is something almost Kennedy-esque about the rise and fall of the house of Bo: A U.S. lawyer described Gu Kailai as the "Jackie Kennedy of China" because of her "brains, charm and beauty"; he knew her in 1998, around the same time she reportedly met Neil Heywood, the British businessmen she was convicted of murdering. Guagua inherited his father's good looks, charisma, passion for public service, media savvy, and probably his ambition as well. "He wants to make a billion dollars and be politically important," said a Chinese businessman who knows Guagua, according to an April 2012 Reuters article. Guagua, moreover, was rumored to have confided to a friend that he aspired to be the John F. Kennedy of China -- the charismatic leader of a new, more open generation.
Whether that can happen anytime soon is an open question. In a speech at Beijing University in 2009, Guagua told his young audience that he was not planning to pursue politics, but instead was interested in spreading education and culture to "benefit the people." It's a common denial for aspiring politicians both in the United States and China -- but since seeing what happened to his father, his ambitions may have sharpened. The tale of the Zhao Orphan normally ends with the protagonist righting the wrongs of his parent's generation. Will Guagua have the same opportunity?