There are three aspects to a leadership transition, a well-connected Chinese economist told this Bystander: the personal and factional jockeying for power; the ideological/directional debates; and the exceptional cases. The downfall of Bo Xilai, now stripped of all his Party posts, falls into the third category, she reckons, though it clearly cuts across the first two.
The new left–the neo-Comms and Maoist revivalists, among whose number Bo was counted–have been put on the back foot by Bo’s ousting. The relatively small number of places in the new Politburo and its all-important standing committee, the inner sanctum of Party power, have likely been already broadly decided, but the reformers should now be able to put more of their supporters into key positions in the bureaucracy and provincial government. The neo-Comms and Maoist revivalists have not necessarily lost the ideological debate, or at least not definitely. Bo was both a populist and popular. Support for his ideas persists both among the public and within the Party, if not sufficient to save his political career.
There is likely to be a show of consensus, however. Top Party leaders will seek to keep a tight grip on the judicial investigation into Bo, his wife Gu Kailai and the former head of the Chongqing police, Wang Lijun, whose visit to the U.S. consulate triggered this incident, and where, it now emerges, the first accusation was made that British businessman and Bo family associate, Neil Heyward, had been murdered, with Gu and a family employee involved.
What needs watching is how the official narrative of Bo and his wife is played out. State media are starting to lay down the exceptional-case story, and emphasizing that no Party member, their spouse or family is above the law, even if that family is a princeling–or, more particularly to our eye, that even a princeling family isn’t above the law if it embarrasses the Party or puts political stability at risk .