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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 22:08 GMT 23:08 UK
China hails Jiang's military prowess
Chinese President Jiang Zemin inspects a military parade
President Jiang has the support of top generals
Chinese state media have heaped praise on President Jiang Zemin, a day before the 75th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army.

Editorials on the front of national and regional newspapers and a story by the official news agency Xinhua detailed Mr Jiang's achievements as chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).


Moving with the times, opening up and innovation run like a red line through Jiang Zemin's time as leader of the people's army

People's Daily editorial

The placement and timing of the stories has raised speculation among analysts that Mr Jiang may keep the powerful CMC job even if he retires as head of the Communist Party.

China's leaders are believed to have been meeting at the resort of Beidaihe to sort out the successors to the current "third generation" of rulers, who are set to be anointed at the forthcoming Communist Party Congress.

But there have been rumours that Mr Jiang may not be willing to relinquish power and that the congress - which is held every five years and due in September or October - may be delayed.

Advantages of staying

A postponing of changes would mean that Mr Jiang could complete a planned autumn trip to the US to meet US President George W Bush as head of both his country and his party.

And staying on as CMC chairman would see Mr Jiang maintain political influence, analysts say.

The People's Daily editorial hailed Mr Jiang's achievements since he became CMC head in 1989, including his backing for the space programme and dismantling of the army's sprawling business empire.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin
Analysts say Mr Jiang could keep his hands on power as CMC chief
It said: "The party central committee and the CMC with Jiang Zemin at the core has clearly discerned the changing times and social environment for military construction and carefully planned a strategy to strengthen the army with broad global perspective and deep historical insight.

"Moving with the times, opening up and innovation run like a red line through Jiang Zemin's time as leader of the people's army carrying forward the cause and forging into the future."

Other editorials have focused on President Jiang's "Three Represents" theory on embracing private entrepreneurs in the party, and on a new set of rules governing selection of party cadres.

The media campaign has fuelled speculation that Mr Jiang will stay on as party chief, but other analysts say his supporters may instead be manoeuvring to ensure his political theory is written into the party constitution and his proteges are given influential positions.

One Western diplomat said: "It is clear from this editorial and other signals that Jiang wants to stay on as head of the CMC.

"The PLA is happy with its relationship with Jiang and would like him to stay on."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"China's military is getting stronger but below the surface the PLA is riddled wtih problems"
See also:

25 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
27 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Feb 02 | Media reports
21 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
06 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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