The former chief of staff of outgoing President Hu Jintao managed to secure a seat on the Communist Party's Central Committee yesterday despite the scandal over the cover-up of his son's death at the wheel of a Ferrari in a crash in March.
Delegates to the 18th party congress chose Ling Jihua as one 205 members of the party's general ruling body. However, 94 delegates voted against his re-election, showing that not everyone supports a man who was once one of the president's closest aides.
Ling, 56, had been seen as a contender for elevation to the Politburo. But he was dealt a severe personal and political blow when his son died in the fiery Beijing car crash that left two young women badly injured.
Ling's connection to the crash went unconfirmed for months, fuelling accusations of a cover-up. In September, Ling was transferred to lead United Front Work Department, a less powerful position expected to deprive him of a Politburo seat.
"The number of 'no' votes for Ling is comparatively high," said Chen Jiping , a delegate and the party secretary of the China Law Society. "I have heard of the scandal about Ling, but I think it is a rumour that I cannot believe."
Analysts agree Ling is unlikely to rise any further than the Central Committee, although the position may protect him from future inquiries.
The Central Committee will appoint members of the Politburo and its supreme Standing Committee at its first meeting today.
New members elected yesterday included several party members tipped to become heads of various government agencies.
They include Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun , who is expected to replace Yang Jiechi as foreign minister, and Guangxi party chief Guo Shengkun , who may lead the Ministry of Public Security.
Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan , whose city was rocked by the downfall of former party secretary Bo Xilai , appeared to be unaffected by the country's biggest political scandal in decades and became a committee member.
Jia Tingan , deputy chief of the People's Liberation Army's General Political Department, was elevated from alternate status. Jia is a close associate of former president Jiang Zemin and headed Jiang's office when he was president.
"Jiang is wielding his influence in the make-up of the central committee and has elevated Jia," said Chen Ziming , a Beijing-based political analyst.
Some rising stars also joined the elite committee, such as Lu Hao , 45, who is currently the head of the Communist Youth League.
In a change that shows the state-owned enterprises have become more influential in policymaking, the number of representatives from the sector has increased to nine from two in 2007.
But Liang Wengen , a 56-year-old billionaire who owns China's biggest construction-machinery maker Sany, was not elected to the committee.
The People's Liberation Army occupies 41 seats on the committee, the same as it did in 2007.
General Li Shiming , 64, commander of the Chengdu military area command; General Li Changcai , 63, political commissar of the Lanzhou military area command; and General Wang Xibin , 64, president of the Chinese National Defence University were not re-elected to the committee.
Lieutenant General Qi Jiangguo , 60, deputy chief of the PLA's general staff; Lieutenant General Wu Changde , 60, deputy director of the military's General Political Department; and Vice Admiral Tian Zhong , 56, commander of the PLA Navy's North Sea Fleet will take their places as military representatives.
Additional reporting by Choi Chi-yuk, Keith Zhai, Shi Jiangtao, Phoenix Kwong, Mimi Lau and Mandy Zuo