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Call for calm over China leadership changes

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

Jiang (L) has been trying to curtail squabbling
Jiang (L) has been trying to curtail squabbling

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SPECIAL REPORT
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Chinese President Jiang Zemin has pleaded with his Politburo colleagues not to lose tempers -- and spirit of unity -- over personnel arrangements to be finalized later this week.

While members of the Jiang or Shanghai faction are set to reap the majority of Politburo seats, factions not doing so well have expressed intense dissatisfaction over alleged power-grabbing by the retiring president.

The 16th Communist Party Congress will on Thursday name about 200 cadres who will be inducted to the new Central Committee.

And the first plenary session of the new, 16th Central Committee will be held on Friday to pick the Politburo -- and the supreme Politburo Standing Committee (PSC).

Party sources in Beijing that a PSC namelist sponsored by the Jiang Faction would likely prevail on Friday.

This would mean that four out of the seven PSC members would be Jiang Faction affiliates, including Jiang's top adviser Zeng Qinghong.

Faction lobbying

As of earlier this week, some Jiang aides were also lobbying for a nine-member PSC in which the proportion of seats held by Jiang protégés would be even bigger.

However, the sources said three PSC incumbents, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Chairman Li Ruihuan, Premier Zhu Rongji and Vice-President Hu Jintao had privately showed displeasure over this Jiang Faction-dominated arrangement.

For example, Li, 68, was forced by Jiang to retire without having been given the opportunity to nominate a protégé to the new PSC.

Li's followers have indicated that because the CPPCC contains the cream of China's non-party intellectuals, professionals and businessman, Li's fall would provoke anti-Jiang sentiments among these rising groups.

And Hu is unhappy over the fact that very few of the affiliates of his own Communist Youth Faction would be awarded with senior appointments.

"Jiang has told his colleagues to put party unity above the vested interests of their cliques," said a Beijing source close to congress deliberations.

"The president also warned that the party would split if factional infighting were to worsen."

Jockeying

To avoid further squabbling, Jiang has suggested to current PSC members that they delay assigning portfolios to most members of the new Politburo and the PSC.

It is understood that process of assigning specific party, government or legislative jobs to Politburo and PSC members could spark another round of jockeying for position.

The 2,114 delegates to the 16th Congress were expected to complete the preliminary elections of Central Committee members by the end of Wednesday.

The bulk of the current Politburo members who are above 70 years of age, including President Jiang, Premier Zhu, and CPPCC Chairman Li, were not on the officially approved list of candidates.

This means in effect that these septuagenarian cadres will be retiring at this congress.



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