While eager observers will have to wait a little longer to find out who will make up the revamped Politburo Standing Committee, China’s much-anticipated leadership transition officially kicked off over the weekend as the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee affirmed the expulsion of two former high-profile officials and named two generals as vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission.
Though he had already been booted from the CCP in late September, the Central Committee reviewed the investigation into disgraced former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai and endorsed his expulsion on Sunday. From The New York Times:
The decision to expel Mr. Bo signaled that top leaders had reached a consensus on this delicate issue. Mr. Bo had been a contender for one of the party’s highest positions until his spectacular fall this year and still had support among some party members. Among the accusations against him are that he abused his power, took large bribes and hindered a police investigation into the death of a British businessman. Mr. Bo’s wife was convicted of the Briton’s murder in August. Mr. Bo, who has been incommunicado since his detention in March, is expected to stand trial in the coming months.
While stripping Bo of his membership in both the party and the National People’s Congress was believed to have paved the way for his criminal trial, two of Bo’s family-appointed lawyers told Reuters on Monday that they had no idea when his trial would start:
Two lawyers hired by Bo’s family, Li Xiaolin and Shen Zhigeng, told Reuters that nearly two weeks after the official announcement of the criminal investigation, they had not been given permission to either see him or represent him.
“Of course not,” Shen said, when asked whether he had seen Bo. “The confirmation (I can represent Bo) hasn’t been verified. So how can we see (him)?”
Shen said the trial will be after a key Communist Party congress opening on Thursday in Beijing that will usher in a generational leadership change, and which has been overshadowed by the Bo scandal.
“I do not know,” Shen said, referring to when the trial may start, but added that it will be “after the 18th Party Congress.”
The Central Committee also officially approved the party’s decision to expel former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun, who was removed from his ministerial post in early 2011 and then finally cast out of the party in May amid allegations of corruption. But not everyone received bad news on Sunday, as generals Xu Qiliang and Fan Changlong received promotions to the upper echelon of China’s armed forces. From Bloomberg:
Fan is commander of the PLA’s Jinan Military Area Command, according to the government’s website www.gov.cn. Xu is commander of the PLA’s air force. Fan is 65 and Xu is 62, according to biographical details provided by Xinhua.
Huang Jing, a professor of political science at National University of Singapore, said Xu Qiliang “is professional and enjoys great respect from PLA officers.”
Xu’s advancement may be a sign that the PLA is moving to more “joint” operations among the army, navy and air force because most past vice chairmen have been army officers, said Taylor Fravel, a political science professor specializing in China at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Fan was named a vice chairman after not having served on the commission. He is “a real professional, with extensive command experience,” Fravel said. Xu was a member of the commission prior to yesterday’s announcement.
The Wall Street Journal points out that the Xinhua News announcement of the military promotions gave no hint as to whether outgoing president Hu Jintao would also step down as chairman of the military’s ruling body during the 18th Party Congress, which begins Thursday, but analysts called it a sign that Hu would remain commander-in-chief following the leadership shuffle. From AFP:
Hu, the CMC chairman, is set to step down as head of the ruling party at a congress starting this week and will retire as national president in March as part of the leadership change.
But Willy Lam, a China politics expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said: “Hu Jintao would want to serve another five years (as CMC chief), particularly given the fact that he has to watch over his political proteges… and protect his political legacy.”
“As long as he is the CMC chief, he will still be the power behind the throne.”
See also previous CDT coverage of the 18th Party Congress and China’s once-a-decade leadership transition, including the last-minute wrangling reportedly taking place over the incoming membership of the Politburo Standing Committee.