China’s heir apparent in disgrace

Written By: James Douglas
Published: July 29, 2017 Last modified: July 29, 2017

Chinese authorities are investigating a top politician previously regarded a contender for the highest ranks of the leadership.

Sun Zhengcai (pictured) was the Communist Party chief of a major metropolis, Chongqing, before his abrupt removal from office earlier this month and China’s anti-corruption body said there was evidence of serious ‘violations of discipline”.

The move came ahead of a key Communist Party meeting when those tipped to succeed the current president and premier – who according to convention will step down in 2022 after 10 years in power – are expected to be revealed.

Mr Sun is the youngest member of the Politburo, the 25-member body subordinate only to the seven-member Standing Committee. He is the first serving Politburo member to be investigated since Bo Xilai, a charismatic high-flyer who also served as Chongqing party chief until he was jailed for corruption in 2013 amid a scandal over the murder of a British businessman.

Sun publicly professed his continued loyalty to Chinese President Xi Jinping, but that clearly did not save him from a suspected purge.

Sun was replaced in Chongqing by Chen Min’er, a protégé of President Xi. Since taking power in 2012, Xi has launched a wide-ranging crackdown on corruption which has brought down several senior officials and which he is believed to be using to consolidate his power.