Hu Jintao

Hu aide secures key post ahead of congress

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2007, 12:00am


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President further cements political authority

President Hu Jintao has manoeuvred one of his closest aides into a key post ahead of next month's major party congress, a further sign of his growing political strength amid intense jockeying over a reshuffle of senior party positions.

Ling Jihua , 50, had been appointed head of the General Office of the party's Central Committee, the main executive body responsible for administrative affairs of the decision-making Politburo, Xinhua reported.

Mr Ling replaced Wang Gang, 65, who sources say is most likely to be appointed to a largely ceremonial job at the National People's Congress or the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Mr Wang, an alternate member of the Politburo, is viewed as coming from the camp of Mr Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin . He had been tipped to break into the Politburo Standing Committee, the country's de facto governing body.

Mr Ling had been Mr Wang's deputy in the General Office and doubled as director of the office that directly handles President Hu's daily agenda.

The Shanxi native cut his political teeth in Mr Hu's power base, the Chinese Youth League, where he stayed for almost 20 years and once served as Mr Hu's secretary.

Like his patron Mr Hu, the baby-faced Mr Ling also has a no-frills, no-nonsense style, and is considered the party secretary general's chief aide and one of his most trusted allies.

Mr Ling, an alternate member of the Central Committee which currently has more than 350 members, is likely to move further up the political ladder at the party congress next month.

Sources said he could be named as an alternate member of the Politburo, or even enter the Politburo.

Analysts said the latest personnel change in the upper echelon of the Communist Party indicated Mr Hu had carved out a strong position of political authority which he would take full advantage of at the party's 17th National Congress, which will open in Beijing on October 15.

The 65-year-old party chief has already moved closer to elevating himself to the communist pantheon alongside Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping .

Earlier this week a Politburo meeting announced Mr Hu's political theory would be enshrined in the revised party constitution at the congress, which will also renew his mandate as party chief for a second term.

Analysts expect Mr Hu to shuffle more allies into the Politburo and its Standing Committee while squeezing out rivals or non-supporters at next month's party caucus.

Earlier this month, Mr Hu restored a close associate, former Beijing mayor Meng Xuenong , to power as acting governor and deputy party boss of Shanxi province, China's biggest coal producing region.

Mr Meng, 58, was sacked as the capital's mayor during the 2003 Sars outbreak.

Another indication of Mr Hu's emergence from Mr Jiang's shadow was the reshuffle of three top security positions before he left for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Sydney earlier this month.

The political commissar of the armed police force and the heads of national security and the central bodyguard bureau in charge of protecting Politburo Standing Committee members and top military leaders were all replaced by Mr Hu's allies.

But the most decisive move he has taken to shake off Mr Jiang's lingering influence was arguably last year's sacking of Chen Liangyu , the former party chief in Shanghai, Mr Jiang's political stronghold.

Analysts say Mr Hu will be in a better position to push ahead with his policies, which adopt a more balanced, redistributionist approach than Mr Jiang's 'growth-at-any-cost' model, during his next five years in power.