Guo Boxiong, the most senior military commander in China to ever be tried in court, was sentenced to life in prison on Monday after the military court found him guilty of taking bribes in exchange for giving military promotions and positions. Along with Bo Xilai, Xu Caihou and Zhou Yongkang, Guo Boxiong becomes the fourth member of the 25-person 17th Politburo of the Communist Party, elected back in 2007, to be expelled from the Party and sentenced to life.
In the summer of 2014, during the fallout from senior officer Gu Junshan’s case, Guo Boxiong and his former colleague of the same rank, retired General Xu Caihou, were both court-martialed and expelled from the Communist Party. In February 2015, Guo’s son, Guo Zhenggang, an admiral in the PLA Navy and Guo’s wife were detained for investigations in connection to illegal real estate and financial dealings.
Guo was born into a peasant family in Liquan County, Shaanxi. He joined the military and rose from an ordinary soldier to the chief of staff of the 55th Division in the early 1980s. Guo continued to rise through the ranks and was eventually promoted to the rank of General, the highest rank in the Chinese military, in 1999.
Xi Jinping initiated a far-reaching anti-corruption campaign following the conclusion of the 18th National Congress in 2012. The campaign is widely viewed as the largest anti-graft operation in the history of Chinese Communist Party. As of 2016, it has netted over 120 high-ranking officials, including about a dozen high-ranking military officers and five national leaders including Guo Boxiong and his long-time colleague, Xu Caihou. Other notable “tigers” include ex-president-aide Ling Jihua, who was sentenced to life in prison two weeks ago
Chinese political analysts speculate that Guo’s fall has to do also with Xi attempting to consolidate his power in the military. Both Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihao are reportedly the two biggest political allies of ex-president Jiang Zemin, who is still pulling some strings behind the scenes 15 years after his retirement. Taking down Jiang Zemin and his Shanghai Clique has been an important part of the agenda for both presidents Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping. The expulsion of Guo should help facilitate Xi in acquiring firmer control over the Central Military Commission. Just in case, Xi gave himself a new title in April: Commander in Chief.