After a wave of top party postings, Chinese President Hu Jintao (
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 (
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 (
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 (
"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 (
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.
Most analysts agree it is too early to predict who will replace Hu in 2012, but several candidates will likely come to the fore at the end of the congress.
The fifth generation is also likely to be fiercely loyal to the one party system, they said.
Major political reform, which has not been on Hu's agenda for the last five years, is unlikely to be a perogative of the new generation of leaders either.
They will seek to enhance the over 50-year dictatorship of the Communist Party, they added.
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