Sat, Aug 11, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Hu Jintao pushes for ally’s promotion to ensure legacy: sources

By Benjamin Kang Lim and Ben Blanchard  /  Reuters, BEIJING

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) is maneuvering to promote one of his closest allies to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner sanctum, two independent sources said, in a bid to retain clout and preserve his legacy after retiring as party chief.

Hu Chunhua (胡春華), party boss of the northern region of Inner Mongolia, is a rising political star of the party’s next generation of senior leaders. He is seen as a reformer and a close ally of Hu Jintao, although the two are not related.

Under China’s constitution, the president, 69, has to stand down early next year in a once-in-a-decade leadership transition.

“Hu Jintao regards Hu Chunhua highly and is determined to promote him,” a source with ties to the leadership said.

He wants “Little Hu,” as the younger man is popularly known in China, to be either catapulted straight into the party’s supreme decisionmaking body — the Politburo Standing Committee — or at least promoted to the prestigious post of party chief in Shanghai, China’s fast-growing financial capital.

“It’s a political tradition in China to ensure that unfinished work and wishes will be carried out,” a Chinese political analyst said, referring to the practice of retiring leaders promoting allies to ensure their influence remains.

“After leaving the [political] stage, the retiring leader hopes that the show will go on,” added the analyst, who asked not to be identified, citing the sensitivity of discussing elite politics.

It will also help ensure there is no political retribution carried out against Hu Jintao or his family by other factions who will remain in power once he is gone, the analyst said.

Hu Jintao is widely expected to hand the top job in the party to Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) and look to promote other allies to important roles. He has been pushing to shrink the standing committee to seven from the current nine members to retain influence. Sources have said membership could be increased to 11.

A new leadership line-up, including the new standing committee, is expected to be announced at a party congress, to be held in October at the earliest. The new lineup will formally take over the reins of power in March next year.

“Hu Chunhua is a dark horse,” a second source with ties to the top leadership told foreign media, referring to his chances of joining the standing committee.

What happens to Hu Chunhua will hinge on horse-trading between Hu Jintao and other senior figures, including former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民), in the run-up to the leadership change at the party’s 18th congress later this year, the sources said.

These and other potential promotions are at the heart of the CCP’s secretive deliberations ahead of the congress. There are signs the deliberations have moved to the seaside resort of Beidaihe, a traditional summer retreat 250km from Beijing.

“This is to solicit opinions, but it won’t reach any final decisions on the new collective leadership. It’s too early for that,” said a source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of potential repercussions for discussing elite politics.

If elevated, Hu Chunhua, 49, would be the youngest member of the standing committee and as an ally of an outgoing president would be seen as someone destined for bigger things, possibly the party leadership.

He gained some international exposure earlier this year, when he accompanied Xi on a trip to the US, along with a smattering of other provincial leaders.

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