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Jiang protege emerges as successor

Willy Wo-Lap Lam, CNN Senior China Analyst

Jiang and Bush: Effusive mutual praise and RSVPs in the affirmative
Jiang and Bush: Effusive mutual praise and RSVPs in the affirmative

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(CNN) -- A key protégé of President Jiang Zemin has emerged as the frontrunner to become Executive Vice-Premier, one of the most powerful posts in China.

Former Communist party secretary of Shanghai Huang Ju is also tipped to be inducted into the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee, the country's supreme ruling council.

The incumbent Executive Vice-Premier, Li Lanqing, 70, who is also a PSC member, is due to retire at the 16th party congress next month.

If Huang's elevation is confirmed by the congress, Shanghai's predominant position in the Chinese economy may be continued.

The 64-year-old cadre has spent almost his entire career in Shanghai, becoming a vice-party secretary in 1985 and mayor in 1991.

Huang is considered particularly close to Jiang, a former Shanghai party chief whom the younger man often calls "teacher."

Party sources in Beijing said Jiang had pushed for Huang's promotion despite the latter's lack of any experience in the central government.

Moreover, quite a number of officials and foreign businessmen in Shanghai are convinced that the metropolis' fast development has primarily been due to the work of two reformist mayors: Zhu Rongji and Xu Kuangdi.

Party sources in Beijing said the final lineup of the Politburo Standing Committee will not be ready until Jiang returns to Beijing on Tuesday after his trip to the U.S. and Mexico.

Apart from Huang, Jiang has also considered two other candidates to succeed Li Lanqing: Guangdong party secretary Li Changchun, and Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo, a former Shanghai party secretary.

Opposition

However, PSC stalwarts outside the Jiang Zemin Faction such as Premier Zhu Rongji and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Chairman Li Ruihuan, have expressed opposition to Li Changchun and Wu Bangguo.

"Huang may become a compromise candidate," said a Western diplomat.

"Jiang hopes his crony could help keep an eye on Wen Jiabao, the Zhu protégé who is a frontrunner to become prime minister."

Analysts said cadres from the Shanghai and Yangtze Delta areas might be relieved if Huang succeeded in becoming first vice-premier.

Both Wen and the expected new party general secretary, Hu Jintao, have worked for long years in western China, and there is a possibility that Wen and Hu may favor diverting some state investments from Shanghai to the western provinces.



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