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China's top nine leaders

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

China's leadership changes will affect the country's policy for years to come
China's leadership changes will affect the country's policy for years to come

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• Factfile: NPC key agenda
• Profile: Who is Hu Jintao?
• Profile: Jiang Zemin's legacy
• Special report: New leaders

(CNN) -- A highlight of the first session of the new Communist Party Central Committee held on Friday was to pick the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), China's supreme ruling council.

However, much of the composition of the nine-member PSC was decided two days before President Jiang Zemin set out on his U.S. tour late last month.

It is a long-standing Communist party tradition that affiliates of the out-going PSC would have a pivotal role in naming their successors. And care is taken to maintain a kind of factional balance.

More than half of the nine PSC members are seen as protégés of President Jiang Zemin.

However, Premier Zhu Rongji, parliament chief Li Peng, and to a lesser extent new leader Hu Jintao, have also ensured they have at least one crony in the policy-making council.

The nine-member ruling council consists of the following:

Hu Jintao

-- Vice-President Hu, 59, is the new party general secretary and slated to become state president next March.

Hu, who is not a member of the Jiang Zemin or Shanghai Faction, was picked by late patriarch Deng Xiaoping in 1992 as the 'core' of the younger generation.

A moderate and cautious cadre, Hu has served for more than two decades in China's impoverished western provinces such as Gansu, Guizhou, and Tibet.

Hu's main challenge in the next five years is to emerge from the shadow of Jiang -- and to kick start a new round of economic and political reform.

Wen Jiabao

-- Vice-Premier Wen, 60, is expected to succeed his mentor Zhu Rongji as premier next March.

A geologist by training, Wen is the only top cadre to have served three party general secretaries: the late Hu Yaobang, the disgraced Zhao Ziyang, and Jiang.

Wen, an able administrator, will continue the Zhu tradition of market reform coupled with a relatively high degree of centralized control over the economy and society.

Zeng Qinghong

-- Together with Hu and Wen, Communist party affairs chief Zeng will form a triumvirate that will rule China in the near future.

Zeng, 63, a former Shanghai vice-party secretary, is Jiang's alter ego, political advisor and chief trouble-shooter.

To be put in charge of key areas including personnel and ideology, Zeng will tend to the interests of the Shanghai Faction after the retirement of Jiang.

Wu Bangguo

-- Vice-Premier Wu, 61, a former party boss of Shanghai and vice-premier in charge of industry since 1998, is tipped to replace Li Peng as NPC chairman next March.

Wu, deemed a diligent but unimaginative official, has not got along well with Premier Zhu in the past five years.

While close to Jiang, Wu will face a tough challenge enhancing the stature of the legislature -- or promoting the concept of the rule of law.

Huang Ju

-- Huang, 64, is a veteran Shanghai party chief who is expected to be made First Vice-Premier in charge of the economy.

The promotion of the key Jiang protégé will help ensure the position of Shanghai as the 'dragon head' of the entire economy.

Huang, deemed a mediocre bureaucrat, will work closely with Shanghai Faction colleagues in the new administration to continue Jiang's policies of cautious reform.

Luo Gan

-- The tough specialist in law and order will be made Secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the party, which is in charge of law enforcement and judiciary affairs.

Luo, 67, is a protégé of out-going NPC chief and former premier Li Peng.

The East Germany-trained conservative has won President Jiang's support for his tough crackdown on the Falun Gong and other "underground" organizations.

Jia Qinglin

-- Jia, a former party boss of Beijing, is slated to become Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top advisory council.

A lackluster cadre, Jia, 62, owes his meteoric rise to friendship with Jiang that goes back more than three decades.

Given his predecessor as CPPCC chief is the popular Li Ruihuan -- a notable Jiang foe -- Jia may face an uphill struggle proving to intellectuals and non-party elements in the consultative conference that Beijing is sincere about power-sharing.

Wu Guanzheng

-- Wu, 64, could play a key role in the new PSC thanks to his friendship with both the Hu Jintao and the Shanghai Faction.

The veteran party chief of coastal Shandong Province is close to both Hu, a fellow graduate of Qinghua University, and Zeng Qinghong, who will lead the Shanghai Faction after the retirement of President Jiang.

Wu, deemed a moderate with reformist tendencies in the economic arena, will take over the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection, China's highest anti-graft agency.

Li Changchun

-- The youngest member of the previous Politburo, Li, 58, has been the party chief of major provinces including Liaoning, Henan, -- and southern Guangdong since 1997.

Li, deemed a Jiang protégé, was credited with setting up one of China's first stock markets in the northeastern city of Shenyang in the mid-1980s.

However, Guangdong officials have in the past few years criticized Li for putting ideological conformity with Beijing above economic liberalization.

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