The palace intrigue surrounding the shape of China‘snext leadership is thick. Rumors abound about who’s up, who’s down and who’s out. What is fairly certain is that Vice President Xi Jinping, who arrives Thursday in Los Angeles for a visit, will become general secretary of the Communist Party in November and China‘s next president in March 2013.
What we do not yet know is who will fill the remaining open slots on the powerful Politburo Standing Committee, as seven of the nine members retire. That matters because the next president is unlikely to become a strongman, as in China’s past. The leadership is becoming more and more oligarchic, with the members of the Standing Committee ruling by consensus. Mao Tse-tung and Deng Xiaoping led by decree. Xi will have to broker.This article was originally published in Los Angeles Times.