China's princelings come of age in new leadership

Xi Jinping

A TALE OF TWO PRINCELINGS

Xi's ascension, along with the other members of the red aristocracy, came at an awkward moment for the princelings.

Their princeling comrade Bo Xilai was ousted in March as party boss of Chongqing, lost his seat in the wider Politburo in April and was expelled from the party in September.

But the downfall of such a high-profile princeling, analysts suggested, was not necessarily unhealthy. At a time of deepening cynicism about the leadership among many Chinese, it showed that when a princeling breaks the law, his crime is the same as that of a lawbreaking commoner, commentator Zhang said, quoting a Chinese proverb.

The different outcomes for Xi and Bo also suggest that even for the offspring of well-connected families, the way they wield power matters. By all accounts, Xi mostly kept his head down and did what was asked of him as he rose through the party's ranks.

Bo, by contrast, was flamboyant by Chinese political standards and played the family card if he thought it could help.

Bo's father, Bo Yibo, was one of the so-called eight immortals, and helped guide China away from some of the most disastrous policies of the Mao era. He died in 2007.

At one point before the elder Bo's death, President Hu summoned Bo and Xi and offered them the same job: to run the landlocked province of Inner Mongolia, an economic backwater.

Bo, then commerce minister, was reluctant to go and told Hu he would have to ask his father first, one party insider told Reuters. Xi, then party boss of prosperous Zhejiang province in eastern China, said he was not familiar with the ethnic issues in Inner Mongolia but was willing to go.

It was a test, but Bo used his father to pressure Hu, the party insider said, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions for discussing secretive elite politics. Xi was willing to accept whatever the party arranged.

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