China’s leadership gets young blood
By Benjamin Kang Lim and Brian Rhoads
BEIJING: China’s Communist Party elected a new Central Committee behind closed doors on Thursday, packing the 356-member body that will select the country’s top leaders with new faces, younger blood and captains of state industry.
More than 2,000 delegates elected 198 full and 158 alternate members on the last day of the week-long 16th Congress, about 180 of whom were new faces, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Party chief Jiang Zemin, 76, parliament chairman Li Peng, Premier Zhu Rongji, Jiang rival Li Ruihuan and two other older leaders did not stand for re-election, retiring to make way for a younger generation.
Vice President Hu Jintao, 59, was the only member of the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee to remain on the new Central Committee.
Two congress delegates told Reuters Hu was the top vote getter, but it was unclear how many votes he collected. Hu is expected to replace Jiang as party general secretary at the first plenum of the Central Committee on Friday when the new Standing Committee is also unveiled.
“With the congress election of a new Central Committee, the party’s central collective leadership has realised the smooth transition from the old to the new,” Jiang said in his closing remarks.
Hamilton College professor Cheng Li, who has been tracking China’s political factions, including Jiang’s Shanghai Gang, said Hu may be more powerful than he appears. “I would not underestimate him. Shanghai Gang controls the Political Bureau, but Hu Jintao’s people are the largest group in the Central Committee,” Li said before the election.
The voting was held behind closed doors, but state television later showed Jiang and other leaders queueing up and dropping red and pink ballots into a ballot box in front of a giant hammer and sickle in the Great Hall of the People.
The Central Committee is composed of the party’s top leaders, cabinet ministers, parliament chairman and vice-chairmen, provincial party chiefs and governors, mayors of the country’s biggest cities, top military brass and now business leaders.
Hua Guofeng, Chairman Mao Zedong’s handpicked successor who arrested the “Gang of Four” but was ousted after only a few years by Deng Xiaoping, lost his seat on the Central Committee.
New faces: Several princelings, or the sons and daughters of China’s political elite, were among the newcomers.
They included Bo Xilai, governor of the northeastern province of Liaoning and a son of former vice premier Bo Yibo, and Xi Jinping, governor of the coastal province of Zhejiang and a son of late vice premier Xi Zhongxun.
Zhang Ruimin, chief executive officer of home appliance giant Haier Group in the coastal city of Qingdao, became an alternate member of the Central Committee.
The new Central Committee was younger and better educated.
“A major characteristic of the new generation is that they are younger,” said Lin Anxi, a professor of Dalian University of Technology and congress delegate.
“Also, there are many candidates who are familiar with economic work and at the same time, their technological and cultural standards are very high,” he said. “This is very beneficial to our country when it faces the future and world.”
Xinhua said more than 20 percent of the new Central Committee were aged under 50. Their average age was 55.4 compared with 59.6 at the 15th Congress in 1997.
A whopping 98.6 percent had college degrees, Xinhua said.
It said all the members of the new Central Committee had begun their political careers after 1949 when the Communists won a civil war and swept to power.
There were 27 women and 35 members of minority ethnic groups, Xinhua said.
The previous Central Committee had 193 full and 142 alternate members. —Reuters
Top China generals step down in military reshuffle
BEIJING: All generals over 70 on China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) have left the party’s Central Committee, the Xinhua news agency said on Thursday, heralding a sweeping reshuffle at the top of the world’s largest army.
But it remained unclear whether the 11-man commission which commands the armed forces would still be headed by Jiang Zemin, who also left the Central Committee and is due to hand over as party chief to Vice President Hu Jintao on Friday.
Neither of the CMC’s two uniformed vice chairmen — top military officer Zhang Wannian, 74, and Defence Minister Chi Haotian, 73 — were on the new Central Committee elected at the close of the 16th Communist Party Congress on Thursday. .
Cao Gangchuan, 67, Guo Boxiong, 60, and Xu Caihou, 59, were the only CMC members who kept their seats on the Central Committee, it said, indicating they were frontrunners for the vice chairmanships.
Jiang could remain CMC chairman after leaving the Central Committee — as his predecessor Deng Xiaoping did from 1987 to 1989 — allowing him to wield power from behind the curtain, Chinese sources and analysts say. —Reuters