China begins transfer of power
BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Confirming long-standing speculation, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and five other senior leaders are stepping down from their posts in the ruling Communist Party, state media has reported.
The move signals the start of a carefully regimented transfer of power to a new, so-called 'fourth generation' of Chinese leaders as the week-long Congress of the Chinese Communist Party draws to a close in Beijing.
Announcing the party's new Central Committee, the official Xinhua news agency said only one senior leader, Vice President Hu Jintao, 59, had been re-elected to the body.
Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and party number two, veteran hardliner Li Peng, are also stepping down from their posts, Xinhua said.
The move adds weight to long-held predictions -- as yet not officially confirmed -- that Jiang will retire from his party roles, with Hu becoming party chief and eventually the next Chinese president.
Adding to speculation that the transfer of power had begun, state media also reported that the Congress had approved the inclusion of Jiang's so-called "Three Represents" theory into the party's constitution.
The move is being seen as a formalization of Jiang's legacy as leader, incorporating once unthinkable capitalist ideology into a party seeking to make itself relevant to the needs of a fast growing country.
Meeting behind closed doors in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, the 2,114 delegates to the Congress picked about 200 full and 150 alternate, or second-tier, members of the party's ruling Central Committee ahead of the closure of the five-yearly conclave.
Shanghai no surprise
The new Central Committee will hold its first session Friday with the sole purpose of electing the new Politburo and the elite Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), China's supreme governing council.
Among those expected to gain senior positions in the 16th Central Committee are a large number of Shanghai-affiliated cadres -- closely associated with Jiang -- upholding the political and economic predominance of the region on the national stage.
Sources close to Congress deliberations say the party's 16th Politburo will include the new party secretary of Shanghai, Chen Liangyu, as well as four former senior Shanghai officials: Zeng Qinghong, Wu Bangguo, Huang Ju, and Chen Zhili.
In addition, either or both of the party secretaries of nearby Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, respectively Hui Liangyu and Zhang Dejiang, will also make it to this body of about 20 top cadres.
Hui, 58, who has vast experience in the provinces of Jilin, Anhui and Hubei, is deemed a protégé of President Jiang Zemin's.
At the same time, a relatively large number of senior cadres in cities and provinces along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River -- deemed Shanghai's hinterland -- are tipped to be inducted to the Central Committee as either full or alternate members.
Jiang, himself a former mayor and party boss of Shanghai, has also underscored the pre-eminence of the Shanghai area in what could be his last public forum before retirement.
This is despite the fact a major focus of his keynote address to the Congress last Friday was to spread prosperity to China's much poorer central and western provinces.
While discussing with Congress delegates from Shanghai, Jiang noted that the Shanghai region would continue to be the "dragon head" for the entire economy.
The president said Shanghai would become a model "international metropolis [under the conditions of] socialist modernization," as well as a global economic, finance, trade and transportation hub.
Jiang added that Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and surrounding areas would continue to benefit from "special" policies to enable them to maintain a growth rate slightly higher than the national average.
In his congress speech, Jiang said the party's major goal for the entire nation to achieve the status of a "relatively well-off society" by the year 2020.
However, it is understood Beijing hopes the greater Shanghai region could in 20 years time approach the economic standards of First World countries and cities.
Political analysts in Beijing said cadres and residents from central and western provinces shared the common perception that Shanghai had in the past 10 years benefited from special policies thanks to the so-called Shanghai Faction's stranglehold on the Politburo and other top governing organs.
The analysts said there were expectations that Vice-President Hu and Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao, who are tipped to become respectively party general secretary and premier at or soon after the Congress, might be able to redress the balance.
Hu spent 21 years in three poor western provinces and Wen worked in impoverished Gansu Province for 12 years.
-- CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam in Hong Kong contributed to this report