Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A Princeling Ascends as China Favors Continuity ; XI Gains Power as Others of 'Red Nobility' Move into High-Level Slots

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A Princeling Ascends as China Favors Continuity ; XI Gains Power as Others of 'Red Nobility' Move into High-Level Slots

Article excerpt

Xi Jinping marches onto a stage of the Great Hall of the People on Thursday as head of the Chinese Communist Party, in the country's leadership transition.

Moving to complete only its second peaceful leadership transition in more than six decades of rule, the Chinese Communist Party ended a weeklong conclave on Wednesday as the party's departing general secretary, Hu Jintao, prepared to hand the reins of power to Xi Jinping, son of a revered revolutionary guerrilla leader who was also an architect of China's economic transformation.

For this nation of 1.3 billion, the once-a-decade leadership transition culminates a particularly tumultuous period plagued by scandals and intense political rivalry that presented the party with some of its greatest challenges since the popular student uprising of 1989.

On Thursday morning, after a confirmation vote by the party's new Central Committee, Mr. Xi, 59, is expected to march onto a stage in a plenary session at the Great Hall of the People accompanied by at least six other party officials who will form the Politburo Standing Committee, the elite group that makes crucial decisions on the economy, foreign policy and other major issues.

"I think the emphasis is on continuity over change this time round," said Bo Zhiyue, a scholar of Chinese politics at the National University of Singapore.

The ascension of Mr. Xi and several other members of the "red nobility" to the top posts is also the clearest signal yet of the full emergence into political power of the so-called princelings, the children of Communist leaders who believe themselves to be the heirs of the revolution that succeeded in 1949, endowed with the mandate of authority that status confers.

Several political insiders say Mr. Hu, 69, is also likely to hand over the post of civilian chairman of the military to Mr. Xi, which would be the first time that a modern Chinese leader has taken office at the same time as head of the party and of the military. That would give Mr. Xi a stronger base from which to consolidate his power, even as he grapples with the continuing influence of party elders.

Mr. Xi is facing a growing chorus of calls from Chinese elites to support greater openness in China's economic and political systems, which critics say have stagnated in the last decade under Mr. Hu, despite the country's emergence as the world's second-largest economy and a growing regional power.

If Mr. Hu gives up the military chairman post, that could set an important institutional precedent for future successions and help put Mr. Hu's legacy in a more favorable light. In Chinese politics, retired leaders try to maximize their influence well into old age, either by clinging to titles and or by making their opinions known on crucial decisions. Jiang Zemin, Mr. Hu's predecessor as party chief and president, did both: He held on to the military post for two years after giving up his party title in 2002, which led to heightened friction within the party; in recent months, he has worked behind the scenes to get his proteges installed on the standing committee.

The committee is expected to be trimmed to seven members from nine. One reason for that change is that some party leaders, including Mr. Xi, believe that an overrepresentation of interests on the committee has led to a dilution of power and gridlock in decision-making. The smaller committee would also mean a downgrading of the party post that controls the security apparatus, which some party officials asserted had grown too powerful.

In Beijing, various lists of the officials who will get seats have circulated in recent months, and the most probable list, according to political insiders, has allies of Mr. Jiang in five of seven seats, reflecting his considerable power even though he was said to be severely ill last year.

Li Keqiang, a protege of Mr. Hu, is expected to get a top- ranking committee seat on Thursday and the state title of prime minister next spring. …

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