Beijing (AsiaNews) - Behind the scenes of the National Assembly, being held in Beijing, a struggle is taking place between two factions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It pits President Hu Jintao (right in picture) against the clique of "princelings", the fifth generation of the Party, consisting of the sons of great personalities, who should take the helm of the country with the next 18th Congress of the CCP to be held in October.
Xi Jinping, Hu's successor-designate to the secretary of the Party and the Presidency in fact belongs to the "princes". But Bo Xilai (pictured left), also belongs to the same clique. He is Party secretary in Chongqing, famous for his fight against the local mafia and the revival of the songs and the study of Maoism.
The battle is over the number of representatives to be included in the Politburo Standing Committee, the true centre of political and economic power in the country. So far, the predictions were that Hu's faction, rooted in the Communist Youth League, would have three members: the current Vice-Premier Li Keqiang (designated to succeed Wen Jiabao), the Director of the Department of the Party, Li Yuanchao, secretary of the CCP in Guangdong, Wang Yang, who became famous for the way he calmed the riots Wukan. The faction of the young princes wanted Xi Jinping, Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Bo Xilai included.
In mid-February, however, the case broke of Wang Lijun, a protege of Bo Xilai, making it harder for him to gain access to the Politburo.
Wang, vice-mayor of Chongqing, was city chief of police and had a hand in Bo's "cleansing" campaign sending hundreds of members of the triads and of the Party to jail. On February 6, Wang took refuge for a day in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, asking - perhaps - for political asylum. That evening he was taken by police to Beijing, where he is accused of "economic crimes" and especially "betrayal" of the state, although nobody knows exactly what he did. Many analysts suspect that Wang's fall was orchestrated by Hu Jintao to weaken Bo Xilai and put another candidate of the Communist Youth in the Politburo.
To rescue what he could from the situation, Bo Xilai was self-critical, confessing his lack of vigilance over Wang, and after his conspicuous absence yesterday by the NPC, today he met journalists defending the "Chongqing Model", which provides greater distribution of wealth in Chinese society, where the gap between rich and poor is abysmal.
"As Chairman Mao said - he said - if we are to build a socialist society, our aim must be to ensure that everyone has a job and food to eat, that we become rich together ... If only few people are rich, then we slip into capitalism and we fail. If a new capitalist class is created, we have set out on a really bad road. "
The weakness of this view is that it undermines neither the CCP's monopoly of power, nor the monopoly of the economy, giving more prominence to state industries, which weigh down the budget and enrich China's princelings.
But the country has for years been under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the United States, European Union, etc. ... to liberalize its economy, with political reforms. So, for over a year, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have been sending out a specific message for a change in the Chinese economic model and the launch of "political reform" (never clearly specified).
Until a few years ago the same Wen said that democracy was like smoke and mirrors, "Western pollution"; today the official press promotes the "Wukan model", the village where the inhabitants were able to expel their corrupt leaders and hold democratic elections to elect the leader of the riots mayor.
It is likely that this commitment to "political reform" - with the stop of the expropriation of land, due to many revolts, and the liberalization of society - will bear fruit after the CCP Congress. But it is also likely that such talk is only used today to defeat the princes' Maoist revival. In any case, be it a modernized Maoism, or a generic proclamation of "reforms", what is lacking is the voice of the people: never before as this year have there been arrests, internet blocks, tight controls on dissidents, democracy activists, human rights lawyers and newspapers. The latter have been banned from even mentioning the divisions between Hu Jintao and Bo Xilai.