by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 16, 2012
The sacking of rising star Bo Xilai has bolstered President Hu Jintao's reformist faction and exposed deep divides in the Communist Party ahead of a 10-yearly leadership transition, analysts say.
Bo, famed for his populist "red revival" campaign, was removed as party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing on Thursday, ending his hopes of joining China's most powerful decision-making body later this year.
Analysts said his removal was a victory for Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao, who favour economic and social reforms in China, while more conservative party members want the state to retain its strong influence.
The demise of Bo, who championed a stronger state role, highlights the intense debate among senior leaders about the direction of the Chinese economy and the pace of reforms many see as essential to prevent a collapse.
"There are discussions going on about what policies should be adopted in what order and in what direction," said David Goodman, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Sydney.
Willy Lam said Bo's demise was a "victory" for Hu and his supporters, but factional horsetrading in the coming months would determine who was promoted instead of Bo to the Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of political power.
"The power struggle between the Youth League and the princelings has intensified. Bo is a victim of that power struggle," said Lam, a China expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Hu's Communist Youth League and the 'princelings', elite politicians like Bo whose rise is due partly to their family lineage, are seen as the two dominant factions in the Communist Party.
"At the moment, it can be said that the 'tuan pai' and the more liberal factions have the upper hand," said Jean-Philippe Beja, an expert in Chinese politics at the Ceri-Sciences Po school in Paris, referring to the Youth League.
"And Wang Yang, whose chances of joining the Standing Committee are now even higher."
Wang -- Bo's predecessor in Chongqing and current party chief of the southern province of Guangdong -- is seen as close to Hu, and likely to win a seat on the nine-member Standing Committee when a generational handover of power begins later this year.
Bo had been seen as one of the leading contenders to fill one of the seven seats up for grabs before Thursday's dramatic announcement, the biggest and most public political drama hit China politics in many years.
A day after Bo was sacked, the Communist Party magazine Qiushi, or Seeking Truth, published a speech in which China's likely next leader called for greater unity in the party.
Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to take over from Hu as head of the party later this year before succeeding him as president in 2013, did not mention Bo by name.
But he warned the party's authority had been weakened by a "lack of principles" among some members, which analysts said was a criticism of Bo and a warning to others.
Analysts said Bo had alienated liberal reformists in the party with his high-profile crackdown on corruption in Chongqing and a populist Maoist revival campaign that alarmed leaders who had lived through the Cultural Revolution.
Leaders were also unnerved by his charismatic style, which analysts said called into question the absolute power of the party.
Some saw a reference by Wen in his final press conference as premier to the Cultural Revolution -- a decade of chaos launched by Mao Zedong to bring down what he perceived as "capitalist" forces -- as an oblique criticism of Bo.
"What happened under Mao was that individual whim rather party organisation came to rule," said Goodman.
"The Cultural Revolution smacks to many people of a lawlessness and the whims of a single ruler. How does that relate to Bo? He laid himself open to the criticism by going for an open, charismatic (style of) politics.
"People who run the party would prefer it not to be like that."
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Senior Chinese leader sacked in rare scandal
Beijing (AFP) March 15, 2012
China's ruling Communist Party on Thursday fired Bo Xilai, a charismatic leader famed for pushing a "red revival", in a move that exposes ideological rifts during a generational power handover. In a highly unusual public rebuke, Bo's removal as party chief of the metropolis of Chongqing was announced a day after Premier Wen Jiabao delivered his strongest call yet for political reform in the ... read more
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