China's factions in struggle for power
BEIJING: China's imminent leadership transition is descending into chaos, say some analysts, amid rolling scandals and signs of factional infighting between the current President and his predecessor.
As Communist Party leaders converge on Beijing for a fortnight of crucial meetings centred around the 18th Party Congress, which starts on November 8, party insiders say fresh infighting has erupted over the future of the rising star Li Yuanchao.
Mr Li, head of the powerful Organisation Department, has been expected to take a senior post alongside the anointed incoming leader, Xi Jinping, when the line-up for the new Politburo Standing Committee is revealed on November 15.
The political uncertainty has been amplified by a series of public scandals including Friday's report in The New York Times that family members of the Premier, Wen Jiabao, had accumulated $US2.7 billion ($2.6 billion) in corporate assets.
On the same day, authorities said they had sent the former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai over to prosecutors, after accusing him of serious abuses of power, including in relation to his wife's murder of the Englishman Neil Heywood.
Earlier, President Hu Jintao's key powerbroker, Ling Jihua, was removed as head of the party's General Office after being implicated in a cover-up of his son's death in a high-speed Ferrari crash.
Mr Li's fate has been linked to Mr Ling, this time in relation to the manner in which Mr Ling conducted a ''straw poll'' in May that was intended to help guide the leadership transition. Both Mr Li and Mr Ling are proteges of Mr Hu.
Several party insiders say Mr Li's fate is the subject of a deepening power struggle between Mr Hu and his predecessor as president, Jiang Zemin.
''It is a state of extreme chaos,'' said political watcher Li Weidong. ''There is no absolute authority, otherwise two sides won't bite each other like this,'' he said.
Ho Pin, the publisher of the Mingjing website, who has successfully predicted leadership line-ups, said Mr Li had been removed from contention for a spot on the Standing Committee.
''Yes, his problem is linked to Ling Jihua,'' he said.
Mr Ho said Mr Ling's problem was ''very serious '', adding that he would soon publish an extensive report.
''Li Yuanchao has been implicated in a conspiracy with Ling Jihua and he has been kicked out by Jiang Zemin,'' said a princeling source, who has ties to officials in the offices of top leaders, citing what he said was the result of a meeting on October 22.
''It is a big, big mess,'' he said, adding that Mr Li's position had been given to the Shanghai Party boss, Yu Zhengsheng.
Other sources cautioned the factional struggles were not over and a new deal could be struck to shore up Mr Li's position.
Mr Hu appears to have won crucial appointments in the People's Liberation Army, particularly the new Chief of the General Staff, Fang Fenghui.
Most analysts agree Mr Xi faces a daunting task in consolidating power in the twin shadows of Mr Hu and Mr Jiang.
The party has not had an extended period of power-sharing between two leaders in over 70 years, but soon it may have three.