BEIJING - The conviction of disgraced top politician Bo Xilai was less about eradicating ubiquitous corruption in China and more about warning Communist Party cadres to stay loyal to the new leadership or suffer the consequences, observers say.
President Xi Jinping, who took office earlier this year, has vowed to tackle both low-level "flies" and high-ranking "tigers" in an anti-corruption drive that has led to expectations that past and present political big-hitters could be targeted.
But despite the downfall of the former Chongqing party chief - jailed for life on corruption charges Sunday - the tough rhetoric is unlikely to be matched with action against endemic graft as long as the newly installed leadership can count on loyalty, experts say.
Bo's spectacular fall from grace came after he became a standard bearer for those who favoured his populist left-leaning policies.
Observers say this became more of a threat to the legitimacy of the reform-minded political elite than the sensational scandal that engulfed him, including the murder of a British businessman for which Bo's wife was convicted.
The former elite politburo member was convicted of taking 20.4 million yuan (S$4.1 million) worth of bribes.
It is an amount that pales into insignificance compared with the huge fortunes alleged to have been amassed by the families of Xi and former premier Wen Jiabao in investigations by US media, said David Zweig from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
But he said that the objective of Bo's trial was not to uncover corruption, but to ensure he was silenced.