The arrest of former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai is the result of a political power struggle that few China experts foresaw. It shows that despite years of economic reforms, China’s one-party rule political system largely remains opaque and closed off to outside input, foremost from the grassroots that make up China’s nearly 1.4 billion citizens.

The investigation by the party into Bo and Gu, a successful lawyer turned businesswoman, for allegedly murdering British businessman Neil Hayward in November, carries tremendous downside risk for the party down the road, experts say. They add that the investigation also has implications for future power struggles as Bo, the son of Bo Yibo, a leader of the 1949 revolution that brought the party to power, has many allies and supporters within the military and securities organs of China.

A "princeling" — the offspring of a senior revolutionary leader — Bo also has a solid political track record, rising from success in the 1990s as mayor of the northern port city of Dalian to become minister of commerce in 2004, before eventually becoming party chief of China’s most populous city, Chongqing, in 2007. It is also common knowledge in China that Bo is not the only senior party leader who has family members who have leveraged upon a relative’s political clout to create vast wealth.

For instance, it is common knowledge that Premier Wen Jiabao’s wife Zhang Peili is very successful as an equity investor and founder of the China Diamond Exchange, while his son Winston is very successful in private equity. President Hu Jintao’s son Hu Haifeng is successful in the aviation security equipment business.

“With few exceptions, the children of all revolutionary leaders and many Chinese leaders have turned family political clout into lucrative business dealings,” says a Beijing-based investment banker who has done business with many so-called princelings. “In China, all major business deals relate to the Party at some stage and require political blessing.”

Come October, China’s ruling Communist Party will hold its 18th Party Congress, and President Hu is expected to pass the first of his three titles, party general secretary, to Vice President Xi Jinping, himself the son of Xi Zhongxun, who also was one of the leaders of the 1949 revolution.