As Chinese Factions Struggle, Has "Next Leader" Xi Chosen Sides?
Created: 2012-03-23 07:02 EST
China's Vice President Xi Jinping (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Xi Jinping has for years been seen as China's top leader-in-waiting. Officially occupying the position of Vice-President, Xi was greeted on a trip to the United States in February with honors close to those given to sitting heads of state.
Yet, in the chaos of China's current leadership transition, Xi's role in the Party has become much less clear. Key to the questions surrounding his fate—and that of the Party as a whole—is the role he has played in the ousting of radical Party figure Bo Xilai.
Bo, once a prominent leader in the Party's diehard leftist faction, had been supported by top-level figures including former Party Chairman Jiang Zemin and current security chief Zhou Yongkang. He was on a track to occupying one of the Party's top positions, before being ousted last week, apparently by current Party leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao.
That, in turn, has heated up tensions between former leader Jiang's hardliner faction, and the so-called "Youth League" faction of Hu and Wen. Xi has widely been seen as a compromise candidate, with ties to the current leaders but support from the hardliners. Yet, if he supported Bo's ousting, Xi might well have burned bridges with Bo's still-powerful benefactors.
Xi has already made statements published in Party outlets that have seemed to support, and show foreknowledge of the ouster, which seems to indicate that he has already chosen the side of Hu and Wen. Some say that, along with those two, Xi could now be a target for a counter-attack by Jiang's leftist hardliner faction. Security head Zhou Yongkang is seen as the potential leader of any such move.
[Chen Pokong, Political Analyst]:
“Whether or not Hu and Wen will act again depends on Zhou Yongkang. Now Zhou is in charge of public security, national security, police, and plainclothes special agents. The budget he holds for 'maintaining stability in China' is even more than the military budget. If Zhou fights back, it will be very dangerous for Hu and Wen."
If Xi did indeed fully sign on to the ousting of Bo, then he too has cause to fear the next move from Party hardliners.