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Last Updated:  Saturday, 15 March, 2003, 05:05 GMT
China confirms new leadership
Wu Bangguo and Jiang Zemin
Jiang (r) will be watching Wu closely
China's parliament has named Hu Jintao as the country's new president, replacing Jiang Zemin, who is stepping down as China's top leader after 10 years.

Mr Hu's election was widely expected following his appointment to the leadership of China's ruling Communist Party last November.

But correspondents say Mr Jiang will retain much of his influence by keeping his key post as chairman of the Central Military Commission, which runs the army, for five more years.

On Sunday, Vice Premier Wen Jiabao, 60, is expected to gain approval to take over as premier from Zhu Rongji.

In other changes approved on Saturday, the deputy leader of the Chinese Communist party, Wu Bangguo, was appointed chairman of parliament, known as the National People's Congress (NPC), for the next five years.

Zeng Qinghong, another Jiang Zemin loyalist, was elected vice-president.

Military and foreign

Mr Hu, 60, was the only candidate and of the nearly 3,000 delegates to the NPC, only four voted against the Communist Party chief becoming China's new state president.

Handover of power
Jiang Zemin (left) listens to Hu Jintao
Hu Jintao becomes president
Wen Jiabao becomes premier
Jiang Zemin keeps considerable influence

Voting by the NPC is largely ceremonial, as there is only one candidate for each top post and the results have been arranged in advance by the ruling Communist party.

The BBC's Beijing correspondent says that Mr Hu may have a hard job establishing himself as China's new supreme leader.

As well as controlling the army, Mr Jiang is expected to retain considerable behind-the-scene influence, especially over foreign policy, and on the issue of Taiwan.

Little is known about the personality of Mr Hu, though he is assumed to be a deft political operator to have survived as leader-in-waiting since his 1992 elevation to the ruling Politburo by former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.

Hu Jintao

Mr Hu will be closely watched to see if his thinking differs from that of the outgoing leadership.

There has also been speculation about possible political rivalry between him and Zeng Qinghong.

Some elements of the army are also reported to be uneasy about Mr Jiang's retaining control over the armed forces in case it creates two centres of power.

The start of the Hu era is unlikely to see any immediate political changes, but he has a difficult task ahead of him steering China through a period of intense social and economic transition.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"Jiang Zemin intends to maintain some considerable influence from behind the scenes"

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