A year ago, Ling Jihua was one of the most important people in Beijing. He was President Hu Jintao's chief of staff, and widely expected to be one of the 7 members of China's Politburo Standing Committee — the highest echelons of power in the country.
Flash forward to today. Ling is not a member of the Standing Committee. He appears to have scraped into a position on the 205-member Central Committee, and is unlikely to prosper further. The South China Morning Post notes that 94 delegates voted against his re-election, a "comparatively high" number, one analyst observes.
What happened? To understand that, you have to go back to March, when a brutal car crash made headlines across China.
The car, a black Ferrari 458 Spider reportedly bought for almost $1 million, was traveling so fast along Beijing's ring road that it split in two as it hit a bridge at 4am. Images of the destroyed car spread like wildfire on Weibo, but by the next morning almost all online information about the crash had been deleted.
It wasn't until September that it was revealed who was in the car: Ling Gu, the 23-year-old son of Ling Jihua. It is unclear if Ling or his two female passengers survived the crash, though it seems unlikely.
Further leaks about the investigation began to suggest a cover-up. If true, it was presumably ordered by Ling Jihua in a bid to stop public condemnation of his son's lavish lifestyle. This was in the midst of the Bo Xilai scandal, after all, and public condemnation of official corruption had been running at an all time high. Whether true or not, Ling was shifted from the General Office of the party’s Central Committee to the United Front Work Department this weekend, effectively moving from the center of Chinese government life to the sidelines.
This being China, and China in the run-up to a crucial once-in-a-decade power turnover, many began to wonder if someone was trying to smear Ling by leaking details (not always true) of the cover-up to the press.
Of course, if someone was leaking these details, there's one relatively obvious suspect — former president Jiang Zemin and his conservative, "princeling" clique. And, as many have already noted, that conservative clique has been the big winner of the 18th Part Committee.
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