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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 15:49 GMT
Chinese leadership change under way
Chinese soldiers outside the Great Hall of the People
China is gearing up for the announcement
The most sweeping leadership change in over a decade is under way in China, with almost all the Communist Party's ruling Politburo expected to retire.

Jiang Zemin (AFP photo)
Jiang Zemin is expected to retire
The new leadership line-up is likely to be unveiled on Friday, after months of speculation about a major clear-out at the top levels of the one of the world's most secretive political systems.

Party chief Jiang Zemin and five other senior leaders are expected to step down from the Politburo.

It is thought that Vice-President Hu Jintao will take over as Party leader, and assume the country's presidency next Spring.

He was the only top leader to be elected to an important Party Committee as its congress closed on Thursday, from which the more powerful Politburo Standing Committee is drawn.


Bowing out
  • Party chief Jiang Zemin
  • Economy boss Zhu Rongji
  • Li Peng, blamed for Tiananmen Square
  • Li Ruihuan, reformers' hope
    See also:

  • Little is known about the enigmatic Mr Hu, but he is not expected to diverge from Mr Jiang's policies of economic reform and opening.

    Mr Jiang has also ensured his own legacy and family interests will be protected. He is thought to have engineered the promotion of several key allies into powerful positions.

    The changes at the top - prompted by several senior leaders reaching the unofficial retirement age of 70 - have affected the whole Party structure.

    More than half the party's elite Central Committee was replaced on Thursday.

    'Smooth succession'

    President Jiang, aged 76, on Thursday hailed the changeover process as a complete success.

    Hu Jintao
    Hu Jintao is widely expected to take over as party leader
    "The Central Committee for the new term has been elected at the Congress, thus ensuring the smooth succession of the new collective," he said at the closing session of congress.

    Among the leaders stepping down are Premier Zhu Rongji, who has overseen China's economy, and the party's second in command, Li Peng, the man most closely tied to the army's 1989 killings of pro-democracy protesters around Tiananmen Square.

    Li Ruihuan, seen as a powerful voice for reform, had been expected to remain in office, but he too has stepped down.

    Looking to the future

    Analysts suspect he has been outmanoeuvred by his long-term rival Mr Jiang.

    Mr Jiang is expected to retain considerable influence. He could even keep control of the military, if he is allowed to remain as chairman of a powerful committee.

    Mr Jiang received a further fillip on Thursday when the Party congress unanimously approved his proposal to formally open party membership to capitalist entrepreneurs.

    His clumsily-named "three represents" theory, which calls for the Party to broaden its support base by representing all that is best in modern China - including newly rich businessmen - is to be added to the Party charter as a guiding spirit alongside Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping thought.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Bridget Kendall
    "Six of them, including the president, announced their retirement"
    Francis Markus reports from Beijing
    "Although Jiang Zemin will no longer be at the helm he's likely to retain considerable influence"

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    14 Nov 02 | Business
    14 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
    05 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
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