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

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Subsequently the paper published proclamations of loyalty from provincial party committees, such as Inner Mongolia's pledge to "require party officials to correctly understand and firmly support the central party's decision."

"If they are calling for unity, they clearly feel the need to do so," points out Sidney Rittenberg, a veteran China analyst who was himself for many years a member of the Chinese Communist Party. "Whatever you call for, it means you don't have enough of it."

For the time being, with Bo and his wife in detention, the leadership appears to have restored a measure of surface tranquility to preparations for the 18th party congress. But the fundamental problem – how leaders of the world's most populous nation are chosen – remains unsolved.

From 'princeling' to threat

Bo had powerful supporters at the highest levels of government: He is a "princeling" – the son of one of the "Eight Immortals" who fought alongside Mao Zedong to found the People's Republic. He had an immaculate record as an effective leader as he rose through party ranks, and he had made a national name for himself by spearheading a crackdown on organized crime, launching generous welfare programs, and encouraging a campaign to promote Mao-era "red songs" redolent of a time when social solidarity mattered more than individual success.

His popularity in Chongqing, based on a high-profile Mao-style cult of personality, unnerved many of his peers, who were reluctant to elevate him to the top of the hierarchy. But Bo's standing led him to believe that he could challenge President Hu Jintao's and Premier Wen Jiabao's plans for their succession.

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