BEIJING - When Singapore's then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong visited Dalian in 1997, he was impressed not only with the city's cleanliness but also with its 48-year-old mayor.
'In the car, as we talked, I think he took down notes at least five times. But this attitude impresses us because it shows a keenness to learn,' Mr Goh was reported as saying.
The mayor was of course Bo Xilai, whose star was already shining bright 16 years ago. By 2007, Bo, whose father was the late Chinese Communist Party (CCP) elder Bo Yibo, had become one of China's 25 most powerful leaders and was tipped to become one of its top seven in November last year.
According to a glowing biography, he was destined to be a statesman on a par with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, and to be nearly as loved as the late Princess Diana.
Then came his dramatic downfall triggered by his wife Gu Kailai's murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in 2011.
Bo, 64, was tried over five days, ending last week on Monday, in a court in eastern Jinan for corruption and using his power to cover up her crime. A verdict is expected this month.
Since then, court transcripts released during the trial - albeit censored and incomplete - have cast a far harsher light on the former party chief of Chongqing.
Beneath Bo's charm, ease with English and the sharp suits lurks a tyrant, going by what was partially revealed in court.
He treated his police chief in Chongqing, Wang Lijun - famed for striking terror in mafia bosses - like a dog.
Wang said in court that he had to report to Bo daily.
At one point last year, when Wang went to tell him of Gu's murderous act, Bo hurled vulgarities, smashed a glass, hit Wang in the face and had to be restrained from bashing him up further.
'My body shook a little... I found the edge of my mouth bleeding and liquid dripping out of my ears,' Wang said in court in front of his former boss.
It was just a slap, said Bo.
But he admitted he got angry easily. 'I know I'm not perfect. I'm subjective and I have a bad temper,' said Bo, who came of age as a Red Guard in the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao in 1966, and reportedly broke at least two of his father's ribs when forced to denounce him.