Choosing the new leaders involves fractious bargaining that attempts to balance out factions and interest groups in the party. Two of the presumed next leaders, Xi and Li, were anointed five years ago, inducted into Hu's leadership to provide continuity. Xi is seen as ex-president Jiang's man; Li as Hu's. Deciding the rest of the lineup has seen unexpectedly sharp-elbowed jostling this year. Bo Xilai, a populist politician seen as a rising star, was cashiered after an aide disclosed that his wife murdered a British businessman. He awaits prosecution, and deciding his fate divided the leadership. A Hu ally was also sidelined after his son died in a Ferrari crash, weakening Hu. How weak will be apparent by counting his allies in the new leadership.
China, like most communist governments, has a history of violent, unpredictable leadership successions. One of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong's named successors died in an alleged failed coup. Party leaders have instituted informal age and term limits to smooth out power transfers. Party chiefs are limited to two five-year terms, while senior leaders 68 years or older at the time of a congress are considered too old to serve in a new leadership. Jiang's stepping aside for Hu in 2002 was the first orderly succession since the party came to power in 1949.
Image: Chinese paramilitary police march outside the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party's five-yearly Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on November 8th, 2012. The week-long congress, held every five years, will end with a transition of power to Vice President Xi Jinping, who will govern for the coming decade amid growing pressure for reform of the communist regime's iron-clad grip on power.