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Hu tipped as China's foreign policy honcho

Hu is tipped to become the Communist Party general secretary and state president after Jiang retires  

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Two key associates of Chinese President Jiang Zemin are scheduled to split the portfolios of foreign and Taiwan affairs after the forthcoming retirement of the 75-year-old leader.

Vice-President Hu Jintao and Head of the Communist Party's Organization Department Zeng Qinghong, are tipped to assume top positions in the party's policy-setting Leading Group on Foreign Affairs (LGFA) and Leading Group on Taiwan Affairs (LGTA).

Jiang is expected to step down from both groups, which he has chaired since the early 1990s, immediately after his retirement from the position of party general secretary at the 16th Party Congress this autumn.

Also headed for retirement this fall is Vice-Premier Qian Qichen, 73, who is known as China's foreign policy czar.

Hu, 59, likely to become party general secretary and state president, has been traveling more frequently and assuming heavier diplomatic responsibilities.

This is despite the fact that, according to party sources in Beijing, Jiang had until the middle of last year tried to prevent Hu from taking part in foreign and military affairs.

Largely because Hu is not from his own faction, Jiang has pulled out the stops to ensure that Zeng, 62, his key protégé, will also have sizeable powers in foreign and Taiwan affairs.

While Zeng's portfolio is strictly party affairs, he has accompanied Jiang on tours abroad – and sat in on meetings when the president holds talks with visiting foreign dignitaries.

Key protégé

At the APEC meeting in Shanghai last year, Zeng raised eyebrows when he accompanied Jiang during the latter's "summit" with U.S. President George W. Bush.

Zeng Qinghong
Jiang has ensured that Zeng will have sizable powers in foreign and Taiwan affairs  

Zeng has played a particularly big role in relations with Japan, having visited the country frequently.

Starting from early this year, Hu and Zeng have appeared together in functions relating to foreign or Taiwan affairs.

For example, Hu and Zeng were with Qian when he made a major policy statement on relations with Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party last spring.

On Wednesday, both Hu and Zeng showed up at a meeting hosted by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC).

"Zeng's appearance was a surprise given his lack of a diplomatic portfolio," said an Asian diplomat in Beijing.

"This may mean that he and Hu [Jintao] will be the two key Politburo members handling foreign affairs."

Zeng's appearance at the CPAFFC function was reported by the official Xinhua News Agency, but not by the semi-official China News Service.

Vice-Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxin, who is widely expected to replace Tang Jiaxuan as foreign minister early next year, will not be senior enough to gain Politburo status.




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