“The verdict won’t be made by the court, but by the seven members of the party’s standing committee,” said Zhang Sizhi, a lawyer who defended Jiang Qing, the widow of party founder Mao Zedong, in a similarly sensational and politically charged trial in 1980. “Everything in court is already arranged. The court will be nothing but a rehearsed performance.”
For the past year, party leaders have been working outhow to deal with Bo in a way that satisfies party factions that support and oppose him, say many party officials speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.
For years, Bo campaigned for promotion to China’s highest circle of power — a seat on the seven-member standing committee. In pursuit of that goal, he cultivated powerful party and military allies but also became a polarizing figure.
Bo represented a brash, left-wing Maoist ideology that was in some ways the antithesis of the party’s market-driven factions. But the scandal and inner party battle that led to his fall from grace were largely struggles between power factions and not over ideological differences, party officials say.
Bo and Xi Jinping
Many believe that the negotiations over his fate have played out largely along the same lines. One key factor is Bo’s complicated relationship with China’s new president, Xi Jinping. Both belong to the party’s new generation of “princelings,” children of the party’s founding fathers. But the two did not always get along.
“Bo was very ambitious. He looked down upon Xi Jinping when he was young,” said one person with close ties with other princelings and schoolmates of the two. “When mentioning Xi Jinping in any occasion in those days, Bo Xilai often called him ‘idiot,’ and Xi knew it.”
Now, as adults, Xi and Bo are on opposite ends of the trial process. Xi — still in his first year as China’s top leader and trying to consolidate his hold on power — faces the thorny question of how severely to deal with Bo.
In an apparent reflection of Xi’s delicate position heading into the trial, former president Jiang Zemin recently issued an unusual comment praising Xi and urging party members to support him.
On Bo’s side, some believe that his main tools of leverage are the threat of division posed by his supporters as well as his knowledge, as a former member of the high-ranking party cadre, of potentially embarrassing secrets about others.