From South China Morning Post
China watchers look for patterns and signs in the secretive workings of the Communist Party the way ancient seers examined animal innards for clues to the future. So it came as a shock to many when Vice-President Xi Jinping, the heir apparent to President Hu Jintao, was not appointed vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission last week.
The conventional view is that the military appointment is a key stepping stone to the top job. That was the way Hu attained supreme power, so it must be the same for his successor, it is thought. Therefore, a smooth transfer of power when Hu steps down in 2012 appears to have been thrown into doubt. A closed-door power struggle, jockeying for position and horse-trading have – predictably – been predicted.
But there are no set rules as to when an heir apparent needs to ascend to the military post; Xi may yet be so appointed at the Central Committee Plenum next year. The way the party organises itself and promotes promising cadres to key positions is very different from 10 years ago when Hu was appointed vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission. China itself is a different place. Even a monolithic dictatorship would find it difficult to prepare for political succession years ahead, and the Communist Party is surely no longer that type of political beast
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