Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Shanghai Party boss tipped for higher office-sources
By Benjamin Kang Lim
BEIJING, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Shanghai Communist Party boss Xi
Jinping has emerged as a dark horse to join China's top echelon
of power, sources with ties to the leadership said, as jockeying
intensifies ahead of next month's key Party meeting.
Current leaders President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao,
both in their 60s, are widely expected to retain their seats on
the Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee in a
leadership reshuffle at the 17th Congress opening on Oct. 15.
Hu, who is tipped to retain the top job in the Party and the
Central Military Commission at the closed-door Congress, may
promote more than one younger-generation successor to the
Standing Committee in what would be a watershed move.
At the very least, several of Communist China's new
generation of leaders -- the fifth after Mao Zedong, Deng
Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu himself -- are expected to join the
decision-making Politburo, one notch below the Standing
Shanghai Party boss Xi, 54, and Li Keqiang, 52, a Hu ally and
top official in the northeastern province of Liaoning, are
front-runners to replace Hu and Wen in 2012, the sources said,
If Xi joins the top leadership, it would mean that an
official who cut his teeth managing prosperous provinces on
China's east coast would have a major say in central policy.
Xi's name emerged last week, while Li, a political ally of
President Hu, was identified by Reuters last year as a candidate.
TOPPED THE POLL
Xi's chances soared earlier this year when he topped Party
regional straw polls known as "mo di" (literally "try to find out
the real situation"), said three independent sources with
knowledge of the informal votes.
"He won about 90 percent of the votes (in Shanghai)," one
A second source told Reuters: "He was No. 1 nationwide."
Xi has been in charge of the country's richest and most
glamorous city, Shanghai, for only six months.
If he makes it to the Standing Committee at the week-long
Congress, he could be named either first vice premier or vice
president at the annual parliament session next March, the
"Xi was put in Shanghai as the Party's best person," the
second source told Reuters.
Xi is close to political allies of Hu's immediate
predecessor, Jiang Zemin. But he is a "princeling", one of the
privileged sons and daughters of the country's incumbent, retired
or late leaders, making him palatable to both Hu and Jiang.
"That figure, someone who can appeal to all sides and who
does not offend anyone, is quite a good source of guidelines for
the sort of people who are likely to rise," said Rana Mitter, a
Chinese politics lecturer at Oxford University.
Xi is the son of late reformist vice-premier and parliament
vice-chairman Xi Zhongxun, architect of China's special economic
zones which enjoyed preferential tax breaks.
He began his political career working as a secretary to Geng
Biao, a vice premier and Politburo member in the late 1970s who
went on to become secretary-general of the Central Military
Commission. Geng was defence minister in 1981 and a vice-chairman
of parliament in 1983.
When Xi became Shanghai Party boss in March, his first public
appearance was a visit to the venue of the Communist Party's
birthplace to underscore his political legitimacy.
(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley and Ben Blanchard)