CHINA'S tea leaf watchers are turning to the performing arts for clues about the country's once-in-a-decade leadership transition, with a slew of key military appointments expected to be announced within days.
In a throwback to the days of Mao, when promotions and purges were divined from the order in which leaders appeared in People's Daily photographs, political analysts believe they have gleaned the outlines of China's future military leadership from the order in which they were photographed after an evening at a Beijing theatre on Saturday night.
If the political analysts and theatre critics are right, one of the People's Liberation Army's most pivotal positions, Director of the General Political Department, will go to a dark-horse candidate, General Zhang Yang, the Political Commissar of the Guangzhou Military Region.
The key information was that General Zhang was photographed on stage two positions from an actor playing Karl Marx and separated only by the vice chair (political) of the Central Military Commission.
Separately, the PLA appears to be using informal channels to telegraph other key appointments, including the incoming Chief of the General Staff.
The position is now expected to be taken by another dark-horse candidate, General Fang Fenghui, a colleague of General Zhang in Guangzhou.
Nowhere, in the speculation, are the names of two key generals, Zhang Haiyang and Liu Yuan, who had been expected to take senior positions.
Both have impeccable factional connections, including with incoming Party chief Xi Jinping, but may have been damaged by their association with the disgraced Bo Xilai.