The prosecutors were "terrible," Li said, while Bo was "clear, focused, articulate and eloquent."
His courtroom display appears to have been striking enough to prompt a personal attack against him on the website of the People's Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper.
"Bo Xilai's righteous and forceful performance in court makes one marvel at his superb acting and lying skills," the op-ed article said, citing an unidentified "media personality who attended the trial."
His cunning arguments are only going to prove his extremely poor character and not going to help him evade punishment under law," the article quoted the person as saying.
Conviction still seen as likely
Although the effectiveness of Bo's performance so far doesn't mean the court will acquit him, it may make it tougher for it to mete out a heavy sentence.
The conviction rate for criminal trials and their appeals in China -- where the party controls police, prosecution and courts -- stood at 99.9% in 2010, a U.S. State Department report cited the Supreme People's Court as saying.
"Of course he will be convicted, otherwise it would be disastrous," Li said. "But the sentencing now can't be very severe because of the nature of the charge and how poorly they've conducted this trial."
It remains to be seen if the prosecutors' performance improves as the case continues.
Much of the fallout from the Bo scandal came before the trial opened.
"The Bo case has revealed the fundamental flaws of the political system and the widespread phenomenon of corruption and power abuse," Li said.
Members of the Chinese leadership, including President Xi Jinping, have described corruption as an existential threat to the Communist Party. But they have so far been reluctant to pursue it too aggressively.
Analysts say that is largely because it is so rampant.
Bo's case might have been a chance to make an example of a senior official. But his trial so far suggests that top leaders are unwilling to delve too deeply or punish him too severely.
"The leadership wants to move forward. They want to put it behind them and move onto other issues," Li said. "That strategy, although it's rational, will probably not resonate very well -- you leave some potential problems for the future as they fail to use the case to consolidate and uplift public confidence in the legal system."
A dramatic downfall
Bo is a princeling, a term that refers to the children of revolutionary veterans who boast of political connections and influence. His late father, Bo Yibo, was a revolutionary contemporary of Mao Zedong and former leader Deng Xiaoping.
Over the past three decades, Bo rose to power as a city mayor, provincial governor, minister of commerce and member of the Politburo, the powerful policymaking body of the Communist Party.
A charismatic and urbane politician, Bo was credited with a spectacular, albeit brutal, crackdown on organized crime during his time as the top party official of Chongqing, a metropolis in southwestern China.