Tue, Apr 03, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Hu to take full control of China at the congress

AFP , BEIJING

After a wave of top party postings, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) appears to be in full command as he grooms a successor to lead the ruling Communists, who are bent on keeping their grip on power.

With the 17th Communist Party Congress to begin late this year, the process of naming top provincial leaders has been in full swing with a series of new postings announced in the past few days.

The most important was Xi Jinping (習近平) , 53, appointed the top party official of Shanghai, China's economic and financial center and most populous city with 17 million people.

Xi, a rising star with a strong communist pedigree, takes on the reins of power in a city still shaking from the sacking of his predecessor Chen Liangyu (陳良宇) in China's biggest graft scandal in a decade.

Other new leaders have been named to the top party posts in the provinces of Zhejiang, Shandong, Qinghai and Shaanxi, as well as the northern metropolis of Tianjin.

"These postings are being announced in the course of preparations for the party congress," a Beijing-based European diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "It is part of the methodical work of Hu to build a team around him that will be announced at the end of the congress this autumn."

Hu, 65, is expected to receive a second five-year term as head of the ruling party -- and therefore the nation -- at the five-yearly congress.

His head of government, Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) , will also get a second mandate, which will be formally rubber stamped by parliament next March.

Hu was named China's president in 2002, after serving 10 years on the party's Politburo Standing Committee, the nation's most powerful political body.

New appointments to the standing committee expected to be announced at the end of the congress are expected to strengthen Hu's hand over the leadership and will likely include his successor when he steps down as China's top leader in 2012, analysts said.

The current leadership of the standing committee was largely selected by Hu's predecessor, former president Jiang Zemin (江澤民), five years ago.

"This time, Hu is choosing his own men and the recent changes at provincial level have shown that he has had little opposition," said a party official who also declined to be named.

The number one objective of Hu and Wen will be to keep China's economy on track, while attacking growing social problems that have appeared during the nation's modernization drive.

"The upcoming party congress will likely be the coming of age of the fifth generation of Chinese leaders, defined as those who were born in the 1950s," said Cheng Li (程立), an expert on Chinese politics at the Brookings Institute, Washington. "The collective characteristics and intra-generational diversity of the fifth generation of leaders will likely have a strong impact on the country's political trajectory and socio-economic policies in the years to come."

Several names have circulated as likely candidates to join Hu and Wen on the powerful standing committee, including Li Keqiang (李克強) and Li Yuanchao (李源潮), currently the top party leaders in Liaoning and Jiangsu provinces respectively.

Both rose through the political ranks of the Communist Youth League, which has been Hu's power-base.

Xi Jinping, the newly promoted party boss in Shanghai, could become a fifth member of the committee.

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