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Will Bo Xilai affair open the 'black box' of China's leadership?

Just how politician Bo Xilai's stunning fall from grace might modify the mysterious manner in which power is shared and wielded in Beijing is still hard to discern.

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The biggest political scandal to break in China for decades has rocked the leadership of the ruling Communist Party and riveted a country unaccustomed to such public drama.

But just how Bo Xilai's stunning fall from grace might modify the mysterious manner in which power is shared and wielded in Beijing is still hard to discern.

Several months ago, Mr. Bo, the man in charge of the megalopolis of Chongqing in southwestern China, was gunning for one of the top nine slots in the Chinese political hierarchy to be filled at a party congress next autumn.

Today, brought low by scandal spiced with murder, sex, betrayal, and gross corruption, he has been stripped of all his official posts, and is under investigation for "grave disciplinary violations," according to the official state news agency Xinhua.

The scandal is especially mortifying to the authorities because it has not only revealed malfeasance at the highest levels of an officially straitlaced government, but also unveiled factional infighting in a party obsessed with unity in the run-up to a once-in-a-decade leadership transition, when seven of the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party's Politburo will be replaced.

On the heels of the announcement that Bo had been fired and that his wife was suspected of murder came a front-page commentary in the Communist Party organ, The People's Daily, ordering the party's 80 million members to "maintain unity of thought with the central party decision and maintain unity of action with the central party plan."

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