Round two begins in the guessing game of who will replace new elite

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am

Close allies of outgoing Vice-President Zeng tipped to take up top posts

Sweeping changes to the Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo, unveiled on Monday, have prompted a new round of speculation: who will fill the vacancies left by those elevated to the upper echelon of power?

While the guessing game has just begun over who will succeed two of President Hu Jintao's closest allies, Li Keqiang in Liaoning and Li Yuanchao in Jiangsu, another duo believed to be close to outgoing Vice-President Zeng Qinghong have been tipped to take up top posts in Beijing and the Ministry of Security.

Jiangxi party chief Meng Jianzhu has been chosen to succeed Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang , who has been elevated to the Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of the country's power structure, sources said.

Wang Anshun , who was transferred from Shanghai to become Beijing's deputy party chief early this year, will become the capital's mayor, taking the place of another rising star, new Politburo member Wang Qishan , according to the sources.

Wang Qishan, a renowned troubleshooter who was made Beijing mayor in 2003 in the wake of the Sars outbreak, is in line to become a vice-premier in the government reshuffle in March.

Both Mr Meng and Wang Anshun have owed their rises largely to Mr Zeng, 68, who gave up his Politburo Standing Committee seat during the Communist Party's just-concluded 17th National Congress.

Wang Anshun, a 59-year-old Henan native, has years of experience in the oil industry, deemed a power base for Mr Zeng. Mr Zeng worked in the oil industry in the 1980s before moving to Shanghai.

Wang Anshun's sudden arrival in the capital in May as the city's third most powerful leader - following the sacking of the disgraced Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu - surprised many.

He has kept a low profile and remains relatively unknown despite his promotion from poverty-stricken Gansu province to Shanghai in 2001.

He served as head of the municipality's organisation department and then as the city's deputy party secretary in charge of personnel affairs from 2003, both posts Mr Zeng had occupied in the 1980s.

According to the sources, he is likely to replace Wang Qishan soon or after the Olympics in August.

But some analysts noted Wang Anshun had not done as well as expected in the party's leadership reshuffle because he was only elected an alternate member of the Central Committee.

'The post of Beijing mayor is usually taken up by full Central Committee members or even more senior officials,' said one analyst.

Mr Meng, 60, another former deputy party chief in Shanghai, has long been seen as a member of the Shanghai Gang, led by former president Jiang Zemin and Mr Zeng. He rose through the ranks to become vice-mayor of Shanghai in 1993 and deputy party secretary in 1996. He was transferred to the top party post in Jiangxi, a party revolutionary base and the home province of Mr Zeng, in 2001.

He is expected to become public security minister in March.

It remains unclear who will succeed Mr Hu's proteges Li Keqiang and Li Yuanchao.

'Secretary Li [Yuanchao] has come back from Beijing. But he is about to leave his Jiangsu post soon,' an official with the province's party committee said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mr Hu yesterday chaired the first study session of the Politburo since its election on Monday, according to Xinhua.

The president also met military and paramilitary delegates to the congress along with other members of the Central Military Commission and senior military leaders. Among them were retired generals, including Yang Baibing .