China's Incredibly Rocky, Scandal-Ridden Road To Political Transition

Xi Jinping

Photo: Hannah Johnston/Getty Images

Sometime in mid-October China is expected to have its all important handover of power to the fifth generation.But the transition has been anything but smooth.

Most recently, the Chinese media have questioned the disappearance of vice-president Xi Jinping who is touted to be China’s next president.

Xi cancelled a meeting with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton earlier this month, and today cancelled a meeting with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt . His absence has been attributed to a sports injury, a heart attack, a car crash, and some claim he is focused on leadership transition.

The Financial Times points out that The Study Times, a major communist paper, ran a front page piece based on Xi’s September 1 speech in an attempt to end the rumours.

Remember, this year hasn’t been without its controversies. The most famous was the ousting of former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, and his dismissal saw a marked step away from the Chongquing economic model and a return to Maoist ideals.

Bo was slated to be a member of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) and his presence had acted as a headache to Hu Jintao. This is because all decisions are reported back to members of the PSC. His dismissal had signaled that Hu Jintao would be able to ensure that his allies were in top posts once he stepped down, enabling him to retain some sway.

Earlier this month it was reported that Hu Chunhua, president Hu’s ally had not been promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee, and that the move would limit the president’s political sway after the leadership transition. Instead Hu Chunhua will likely be appointed Chongquing party chief, which Reuters called a “sideways move”. 

Hu Jintao also saw another ally Ling Jihua lose a prominent position after his son was involved in a car crash. Despite his recent step away from public view, these incidents have helped Xi strengthen his position as the country’s future leader.

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