So far, the political blowback in China has been contained. That reflects both the case itself, which remains murky and unknown in China, and the power dynamics within the ruling Communist Party, says Bo Zhiyue, a senior fellow at the National University of Singapore who studies elite politics in China.
"People can talk about it... In the end, it all depends on the political balance between different groups. If Hu Jintao is dominant, I don't see any backlash coming," he says.
Princelings have flourished in China's capitalist economy and have been tapped to run large companies, including state-owned behemoths. Researchers have estimated that as many as 90 percent of companies in key sectors are in their hands.But that may overstate their reach, particularly as the economy matures and more private companies form, say analysts.
Princelings aren't unique to China. In most political systems, the offspring of senior leaders walk a gilded path. Still, the perception that a privileged few receive all the economic spoils remains potent in China. In 1989, it was a rallying cry for protesters in Tiananmen Square.
The very whiff of a scandal that might brush the president's son has been a red flag to China's ever-vigilant censors.
Two leading news websites, Sina.com and 163.com, which carried stories on the Nuctech case on their technology channels, without naming Hu, were blocked – an unusually strong reaction from authorities, says Xiao Qiang, a professor of journalism at the University of California-Berkeley and editor of China Digital Times. Internet searches on keywords like "Namibia bribery" are now denied, a common tactic in China.
The severity of the censorship underlines the strict taboos in play, says Mr. Qiang. "This is more than princelings. This is the current's president's son. It can't be more sensitive than that," he says.