What too few people recognise is the Communist party’s colossal legitimacy crisis. The battle between Bo and the leadership is about much more than the way he acquired the personal fortune that allowed him to educate his children at top British public schools. It is about finding an answer to the legitimacy question. Unless a convincing strategy can soon be developed, a Chinese spring sometime in the next decade seems nearly certain.
The party’s right to govern is that it led the communist revolution, the dawn of an egalitarian paradise in which the party as champion of the proletariat was to govern the economy and society harmoniously in the name of all. But while China’s growth has been remarkable and 400 million have been lifted out of poverty, it has plainly very little to do with socialism or an egalitarian paradise. The revolution’s leaders are long dead and they have been replaced by a competent if rotten administrative elite that looks more and more like the Confucian mandarinate the revolution overthrew.