Wed, Sep 16, 2009 - Page 5 News List

PRC central committee meeting opens

‘PRINCELING’ The son of a communist guerrilla who fought alongside Mao Zedong, Xi Jinping is expected to take a post that will pave the way for him to succeed Hu Jintao

AFP , BEIJING

The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) ruling Communist Party opened a key annual meeting yesterday at which President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) heir apparent was expected to move one step closer to assuming the leadership of the nation.

The 204-member central committee, one of the party’s top bodies, convened for a four-day session also expected to look at corruption and stability at a time of rising social and ethnic unrest.

Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) was expected to be appointed to the party’s powerful military commission during the meeting, which would make him the front-runner to succeed Hu as party leader in 2012 and president in 2013.

Political analysts can only speculate on the inner workings of China’s top leadership, which are cloaked in a veil of secrecy.

But they say that Hu was elected vice chairman of the military commission in September 1999, paving the way for his rise to the nation’s presidency less than four years later, and Xi is expected to follow the same path.

Xi’s positions as vice president and head of the party’s secretariat place him at exactly the same level Hu had reached before he was nominated to the commission.

“Judging by his current performance, one can suppose that he has got the leadership and society’s approval,” said Hu Xingdou (胡星斗), economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology. “I estimate there will be no big problem for him to enter the military commission.”

Analysts said Xi had passed one major test with flying colors — he was responsible for the smooth running of last year’s Beijing Olympic Games, which were seen as a great success.

The party meeting began just two weeks before the sensitive 60th anniversary of the founding of communist China on Oct. 1, due to be marked by a huge military parade, song and dance performances and fireworks.

With these celebrations on the horizon, ethnic unrest simmering in northwest Xinjiang region and sporadic mass protests elsewhere, the leadership needs to show unity, and appointing Xi to the military commission will do just that, analysts say.

“They want to give an impression of stability and continuity, at a time when people are preparing to celebrate the 60th anniversary,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political science professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.

The son of a revolutionary hero, the 56-year-old Xi, who is married to a famous singer, has served in the past as the top party official in the eastern provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, and more recently as Shanghai’s top leader.

Known as a “Chinese princeling” due to his family lineage, at least part of Xi’s political ascension is due to his late father, Xi Zhongxun (習仲勛), a communist guerrilla who fought alongside revolutionary leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東).

Xi is not thought to be Hu’s favorite, but some observers believe that former president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) — who still wields a lot of power even in retirement — and his allies managed to propel Xi to prominence.

Aside from issues of succession, the meeting is also expected to focus on corruption and stability.

The Beijing Institute of Technology’s Hu said rules stipulating that officials must declare and publicize their property could be introduced.

The security situation in ­Xinjiang, where nearly 200 people were killed in ethnic unrest in July, and another five died in protests earlier this month over a spate of mysterious needle attacks, could also be on the table, he said.

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