Xi Jinping's one-time political rival will now spend the rest of his life in prison

Xi Jinping's one-time political rival will now spend the rest of his life in prison

Xi Jinping and Sun Zhengcai

Feng Li/Getty Images

Sun Zhengcai (R) walks behind Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) as they attending the fifth plenary meeting of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People on March 15, 2013 in Beijing, China.

  • A former potential successor for Chinese President Xi Jinping was given a lifetime prison sentence on Tuesday.
  • Sun Zhengcai, the Communist Party Secretary for the city of Chongqing and a member of the 25-person Politburo, previously pleaded guilty to bribery, corruption, and abuse of power.
  • Sun was arrested last year and replaced by a protégé of Xi.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's biggest rival at one time, Sun Zhengcai, was just sentenced to life in prison.

Sun Zhengcai, the former Communist Party secretary for the city of Chongqing, was found guilty on Tuesday of taking $26.7 million in bribes. He was given a life sentence and all his personal property and "illegal gains" will be confiscated.

Sun is the most senior leader to be caught up in Xi's anti-corruption crackdown which has focused on bribery and misuse of public funds, but it has also drawn criticism for its focus on Xi's political enemies.

Sun, who also held one of the 25 most powerful positions in China as a member of the Politburo, was arrested suddenly last year. Being in his early fifties it was thought Sun may be a potential successor to Xi, because many of his colleagues would be too old to take over in 2022.


Instead, Sun was accused of graft, leaking secrets, bribery, and abusing his power as well as his "faith and belief [in communism] was shaken." He was expelled from the Communist Party and his position was given to Chen Miner, a trusted confidant and protégé of Xi.

In March, China expert Bill Bishop described how the anti-graft drive "points to the political skill-craft of Xi Jinping."

"The anti-corruption campaign he's wielded across the Party has not only helped him "clean up" the country's almost industrial levels of corruption," Bishop said. "It has also afforded the additional benefit of "cleaning up" all of Xi Jinping's political opponents on the way through."

This year China's government ruled that presidents no longer needed to adhere to a two-term limit and can rule for life.