Crash Puts New Focus on China Leaders

In the midst of the breaking scandal involving accusations that Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai abused his power and wealth to benefit himself and his family, a Ferrari crashed on a Beijing road at 4 am, killing the driver and severely injuring two passengers (one of whom later died). Rumors immediately started circulating about the identity of the driver, who has since been confirmed to be Ling Gu, the son of Ling Jihua, the chief of the General Office of the CCP Central Committee and a close ally of President Hu Jintao. The Wall Street Journal looks at how the two parallel scandals were handled and what it tells us about the upcoming leadership transition in China:

The difference in how the party handled the Bo and Ling matters speaks volumes about the challenge it faces as it tries to conclude its most destabilizing political crisis in decades ahead of a sweeping leadership change beginning at the 18th Party Congress, which starts Nov. 8.

The leadership has tried to portray Mr. Bo—now accused of offenses including bribe-taking, sexual impropriety and abuse of power in a murder investigation of his wife—as an anomaly. Broader-than-expected allegations announced last month appeared designed to restore the party’s damaged credibility in the eyes of a public grown increasingly angry over the issues of official abuse that Mr. Bo embodies. Mr. Bo has disappeared from public view and is believed to be in detention pending his trial.

But the Ferrari crash and its aftermath encapsulate some of the same issues, such as children of the elite enjoying expensive luxuries—demonstrating how limited the party’s taste is for policing its own upper ranks except when politically expedient.

The contrasting fates of Mr. Bo and Ling Jihua also reflect feuding and deal-making behind the scenes as outgoing leaders and former ones have tried to elevate protégés to conserve their interests and political influence.

October 21, 2012 10:51 PM
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