Tue, Oct 23, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Hu granted second term as paramount leader

BUSINESS UNUSUAL The party's approval of a second term for the president was a formality, but the additions to the Politburo Standing Committee raised a few eyebrows


Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) emerged politically stronger after the Chinese Communist Party handed him a second five-year term yesterday, allowing him a freer hand to manage tensions over a rising wealth gap and boost spending on long-neglected social services.

Yet, in a potentially ominous sign, the country's top Communists also promoted two potential successors as part of a new leadership lineup.

The move, likely a compromise adopted to postpone a final decision, created the potential for internal divisions, an old bugbear for a party obsessed with unity but that has repeatedly suffered near-lethal splits during its history.

"We are keenly aware of our difficult tasks and great responsibilities," Hu said while introducing the new nine-man Politburo Standing Committee, the party's highest body.

Hu was also reappointed chairman of the commission controlling China's 2.3 million-member armed forces, which are officially loyal to the Chinese Communist Party and not the state. Hu wrested that position from his predecessor, Jiang Zemin (江澤民), in 2004 as part of a consolidation of his power.

Yesterday's announcement of a new leadership lineup marked the end of months of in-house bargaining over high-level posts that saw Hu purge one Politburo member who had criticized Beijing's policies.

The concessions Hu was forced to make became clearer with the inauguration of a new Politburo Standing Committee containing five holdovers from the last leadership and four newcomers.

Hu had been seen as favoring the new leadership's youngest member, Li Keqiang (李克強), 52, a protege of more than 20 years since their days in the Communist Youth League.

However, Li was outranked on the new committee by the 54-year-old Xi Jinping (習近平?, Shanghai's party secretary, who is less beholden to Hu and emerged in recent weeks as a compromise candidate for leaders who feared giving Hu too much sway.

Li is identified with Hu's supporters drawn partly from the Communist Youth League, and Xi, the son of an influential veteran revolutionary, with the traditional party elite and more prosperous coastal provinces.

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