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Where Hu stands on U.S., Taiwan

By China analyst Willy Lam for CNN

Jiang Zemin
Hu Jintao

HONG KONG (CNN) -- After patriarch Jiang Zemin's long overdue retirement, the Chinese leadership under President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao may pursue a more aggressive policy towards the United States and Taiwan.

This is despite the widespread perception that these two "Fourth-Generation" cadres are generally more moderate and reformist in domestic and foreign affairs.

In recent months, the 78-year-old Jiang sent tough warnings to the United States about its "anti-China containment policy" in his capacity as Chairman of the party's Central Military Commission (CMC).

Jiang, who largely ran the country's Taiwan policy, resigned as the head of the country's military on Sunday, marking the culmination of a leadership transfer that began in November 2002.

"There seems no other way apart from the military option" to solve the reunification issue, he has said.

However, the head of the so-called Shanghai Faction in Chinese politics is generally regarded by cadres as "pro-American" for various reasons.

His critics say he has a "romantic" belief in the possibility of a Sino-U.S. strategic partnership, as well as the fact that his two sons used to be business partners in American firms.

President Hu, on the other hand, has kicked off a series of initiatives to counter-balance American "unilateralism" and to reduce Chinese dependence on U.S. investors and importers.

He has come up with a plethora of initiatives in the past year to improve relations with the European Union, ASEAN, Russia, Africa and South America.

"Hu has masterminded fairly effective measures to counter Washington's so-called encirclement policy against China," said a Beijing-based Asian diplomat.

"And the Hu-Wen team has been able to establish solid ties with several African and South American countries in order to secure oil -- and to establish China's status as leader of the developing world."

A source close to China's Taiwan policy-making establishment said Hu, a former party secretary of Tibet who became famous for suppressing anti-Beijing riots in early 1989, might have more hard-line views on Taiwan than those of ex-president Jiang.

"As new CMC chief, Hu has to pay full attention to the hawkish, let's-liberate-Taiwan-now ideas of the generals," the source said.

"Moreover, having made himself out as a man of the masses, he has to heed fast-growing nationalistic sentiments particularly along coastal China."

The Hu-Wen team has no significant disagreement with the Shanghai Faction over economic policy, particularly attracting foreign capital and privatizing state companies to expedite China's integration with the world economy.

However, given that the power base of both Hu and Wen is in the hinterland, the Fourth Generation stalwarts will likely tone down Jiang's penchant for showering the Greater Shanghai Region with state investment and favorable economic policies.

Owing to mushrooming protests by unemployed workers and displaced peasants, the Hu-Wen leadership will have to devote more resources to maintaining social stability through means that include boosting social-welfare payouts.

And in line with their so-called "scientific theory of development," the Hu-Wen administration will be giving more priority to goals such as environmental improvements, closing the disparity between coast and heartland, and narrowing the wealth divide.

At this stage, however, Beijing analysts see no possibility of an early resumption of political reform, which was largely put on hold in June 1989.

After all, the main theme at the Central Committee assembly that accepted Jiang's retirement and appointed Hu China's new commander-in-chief was "improving and perfecting the Communist party's ability to rule."

The communiqué of the session underscored the importance of strengthening the party's "creative power, cohesive power and combat power."

There was no mention of political liberalization.

In a speech last week on China's legislative system, Hu said China must not "copy the political institutions of foreign countries," meaning that the Western democratic model was not suitable for the country.

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