Speculation over China’s new leaders intensifies

AFP, BEIJING

Sun, Nov 04, 2012 - Page 1

Speculation intensified on Friday over who will be named the new leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as the country’s political elite met for a second day ahead of a once-in-a-decade handover of power.

The Hong Kong-based Mirror Books Web site, which has accurately predicted China’s incoming leaders in the past, said it believed the new line-up would be dominated by party conservatives unlikely to make major reforms.

The South China Morning Post newspaper made the same prediction on Friday, citing sources close to the inner workings of the power transition.

The Politburo Standing Committee of the CCP currently consists of nine men, including Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), who will step down as general secretary at the 18th Party Congress which begins next week, and his presumed successor, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平).

Xi is expected to replace Hu, while current Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) appears set to take over from Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶).

In addition to Xi and Li — the only current leaders who will not retire from the standing committee — Mirror Books predicted the new line-up would include Chong-qing party boss Zhang Dejiang (張德江), Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng (俞正聲), CCP propaganda head Liu Yunshan (劉雲山), Tianjin party chief Zhang Gaoli (張高麗) and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan (王岐山).

The committee is expected to be cut from nine members to seven in an effort to simplify its consensus-style rule, while Hu and Wen will formally step down from their roles as president and premier in March.

About 500 top officials are attending the secretive Central Committee meeting that began on Thursday to finalize the top appointments ahead of the Congress.

“This looks like the line-up. It is not one that will be good for reform hopes,” said Willy Lam (林和立), a prominent China watcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Barring any overwhelming opposition to these people [at the Central Committee meeting], there are unlikely to be any last-minute changes.”