Quartet tipped for top echelon fall short of expectations abroad

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am

Over the past few months, they were seen as frontrunners for the top party echelon, but yesterday's announcement showed the race was over.

Wang Zhaoguo , Zhang Dejiang , Yu Zhengsheng and Liu Yandong were once tipped by the rumour mills for the apex of power - the Politburo Standing Committee - but all they won were consolation prizes.

It is difficult to understand why overseas media put so much hope on Mr Wang because the 66-year-old chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions did not have much chance to develop his political credentials.

One reason was probably his Communist Youth League (CYL) background, but the pundits seemed to have overlooked that he was once a rival to party general secretary President Hu Jintao , and late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping picked Mr Hu instead for the fourth-generation leadership.

Mr Wang is expected to gradually fade away after the 18th National Congress in 2012.

There were also high expectations for Ms Liu, director of the Central United Front Work Department, again based on her strong CYL background. The 62-year old was tipped to be Shanghai party boss before the job went to Xi Jinping , who was promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee yesterday.

Mr Yu is tipped to succeed Mr Xi.

Many overseas observers pointed to Ms Liu's close ties to Mr Hu and the so-called tuanpai - others with youth league backgrounds, including Liaoning party secretary Li Keqiang and Jiangsu party secretary Li Yuanchao - and speculation that she could make the Standing Committee never ceased.

Guangdong party secretary Zhang Dejiang , 61, was another dark horse mentioned by overseas analysts. The North Korea-trained cadre was considered an ally of former president Jiang Zemin and known as a conservative.

Although Mr Zhang did not make it to the Politburo Standing Committee, he might be in line for a vice-premiership as consolation.

Although the four are now members of the Politburo, their hopes of entering the top echelon in five years are slim as they are all over 60. The retirement age for the Politburo Standing Committee is arbitrary - this time reportedly set at 68.