It has begun: the run-up to the crucial 18th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and the once-in-a-decade changing of the guard on November 8.
The official news agency Xinhua provided a sober assessment of the challenges facing the party, admitting China's need to adjus to a new economic reality. Dropping the overly optimistic commentary that the government had more than enough economic firepower, the new tone is that the Chinese economy was slated to rebound in the 4th quarter. The monetary policies instituted in the European Union and by the American Federal Reserve, it was hoped, would prove a tonic for Chinese exports.
Outside observers have discussed the varied economic difficulties. China's labor costs are rising; the constant stream of fresh labor has dried up; the anti-Japanese demonstrations including vandalism at Japanese-owned factories are scaring off foreign investors; foreign companies are disappointed over the meager rewards that they have reaped from the Chinese domestic market, for centuries considered a potential El Dorado, and have rethought the logic of investing in China.
As a result some analysts have expressed doubts that China can attain even an 8% growth rate - a sharp comedown from its years of double-digit growth - and are talking of 5% at best.
Xinhua, however, elected, in line with the expulsion of Bo Xilai, the former boss of Chongqing from the party, to claim that "the most pressing issue for the Chinese public is the uninhibited and widespread abuse of power and corruption among government officials and businessmen."
Bo, son of one of the party's "immortals", was accused of profiteering and taking huge bribes both personally and through his family. Additionally "Bo had or maintained improper sexual relationships with a number of women."
"He…made erroneous decisions in the promotion of personnel, resulting in serious consequences." This is party speak for building a power base with political cronies.
It was necessary for the party to resolve the case of Bo prior to the 18th Congress, as the disgraced former leader still commands a following and, ironically, given the charges against him, was trying to rally party opinion and public opinion behind an egalitarian platform that would hark back to the party's ascetic heritage.
The party, however, will pay a price in public legitimacy for the revelations. The laundry list of Bo's crimes naturally raises embarrassing questions about how these crimes could remain unreported as Bo rapidly made his ascent up the party ladder.
Every time the party has been forced to wash its dirty laundry in public, it has paid a price. One can say that the Chinese public is more cynical than during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s or the Gang of 4 trial during the late 1970s. However, when the party attempts to justify its political monopoly, the affair hardly provides a solid argument on behalf of that monopoly.