Gu Suhua writes from Beijing: The infighting at the very top of the Chinese leadership continues. And it worries a lot of people, in China and beyond.
Any day now the trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of the disgraced former party boss of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, is to start. She is accused of ‘intentional homicide’. Evidence supposedly reveals that she was involved in poisoning the British businessman Neil Heywood last November. As it stands, the verdict is certain to be guilty. However, she may not get the death penalty and instead given a long prison sentence, claiming that Heywood threatened her son although not really explaining why he would do that.
Heywood is suspected of helping Gu Kailai to move personal assets out of China. But it is still unclear why he was killed. The British Embassy has requested to be permitted to attend the trial. It may in fact only last a day. Still, everyone would like to hear the evidence against Heywood.
The trial of the wife of one of the top party bosses is a huge embarrassment for the Chinese leadership. It is taking place just a few months before the 18th Communist Party Congress that will see the election of seven new members of the nine man Politburo Standing Committee. Had things gone smoothly, Bo Xilai stood a very good chance of being elected one of the new members. It so happens that the Standing Committee rules the Middle Kingdom.
But someone at the top had decided that Bo should not get the big job. As he was a member of the Party Politburo it was deemed inappropriate to charge him with any crimes. Instead his wife was targeted, but most people in China understand that it was her husband whom some powerful people were after. All this reveals the fierce infighting in the run up to the Party Congress, even though the Chinese leadership has always been insisting that there was peace and harmony within it.
There are two main factions within the leadership. One consists of former officials of the Young Communist League and the other of so-called princelings, sons and daughters of the heroes of the communist revolution. Hu Jintao, the Party leader and the current President, was supporting Bo so the current scandal indirectly represents a blow to his standing. Hu wanted Li Keqiang to succeed him but instead it will probably be another Politburo member, Xi Jinping, who might be taking over from him in October.
The outcome of the jockeying for power at present is difficult to predict. So fierce is this battle that there are even rumours that the Party Congress may be delayed by a few months. If this happens, it would mean that the composition of the Standing Committee would remain extremely contentious, with no faction coming out on top. And that in turn means that the stability of China would be in doubt, raising fears that its economy might suffer as a result.
Something to worry about for lots of people.