Former Party head Jiang Zemin's faction was not able to cut ties with the disgraced Bo Xilai, and the current Party head Hu Jintao's moves against Bo have set the stage for finishing off that faction. To what end is not yet clear.
The axe fell on former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai on Sept. 28, when he was expelled from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and brought up on criminal charges.
Whenever a CCP official is put under investigation, Party members usually try to cut ties with him.
Bo cut ties with his former police chief Wang Lijun. Wang was being investigated by Party central and needed Bo's protection. In a meeting in late January, Wang informed Bo of his wife's role in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, trying to pressure Bo into supporting him.
Bo slapped Wang's face, removed him as police chief, and planned on murdering him, forcing Wang to flee to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu.
When Liu Shaoqi (former head of the CCP and heir apparent to Mao) and Deng Xiaoping (former regime leader) were purged during the Great Cultural Revolution, and when Party leader Hu Jintao put former Shanghai Party chief Chen Liangyu under investigation in 2006, both subordinates and superiors cut ties.
Undercutting HuBut until very recently, Jiang's faction has stubbornly sought to save Bo.
For example, they orchestrated a series of rumors meant to undercut Hu Jintao: Hu Jintao would relinquish the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission; Jiang Zemin had recently surfaced and expected to have a share in power; Jiang's allies would take a majority of the seats in the Politburo, and so on.
If Hu continues to hold onto power, Bo will not have the chance to reverse his fortunes, and security czar Zhou Yongkang, who has desperately tried to save Bo, will be doomed after the 18th Party Congress, expected to convene on Nov. 7.
Hu also attended the handover ceremony of China's first carrier on Sept. 25 to declare his control over the military. Jiang Zemin was blocked from access to the media and made appearances only on leftist websites.
Hu's weightiest move: To dispel the rumor that Jiang's allies would take the majority of the Politburo seats at the 18th Party Congress, Hu announced the trial of Bo Xilai.
Other CrimesThese "other crimes" go to the heart of why Jiang's faction has been desperately trying to save Bo.
If Zhou Yongkang had cut ties with Bo soon after Bo was ousted, at least Zhou would have been safe temporarily and wouldn't have had to face off against Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, and the next presumptive Party leader, Xi Jinping.
Zhou persisted in trying to save Bo simply because he, Bo, and Jiang had masterminded a coup attempt against Xi. They are all in this together: If any one of them falls, they all fall.
However, Zhou's vulnerability and guilt go beyond the coup attempt and explain why it was necessary.
Whether this crime can be covered up is critical to whether the CCP will survive or collapse.
If the CCP continues to rule China, Zhou might still be able to enjoy his life after he retires. Otherwise, Zhou will be held accountable for crimes against humanity. The coup attempt was a desperate effort to avoid this fate.
"Other crimes" left the door open for other charges against Bo that could implicate Zhou and other members of Jiang's faction.
During the abusive "shanggui" interrogation, in order to cut the best possible deal for himself, Bo very likely revealed details about the coup attempt unknown to his wife or Wang Lijun, including Zhou and Jiang's roles.
Hu Jintao has defeated Jiang's faction and has hung the charge of "other crimes" over their heads like the sword of Damocles. Now history will test Hu's mettle.
Has Hu won this battle merely to hand the CCP off to Xi Jinping and enjoy a comfortable retirement? Or will Hu now rise to the moment and give China what it desperately needs?
Will Hu now expose the crimes of Jiang's faction in the persecution of Falun Gong and turn this power struggle into a liberating battle between good and evil?