18th Party Congress

Hu Jintao will step down as military chief today

Top brass confirm Post report that outgoing leader will retire completely, clearing way for first clean transfer of power in two decades

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 7:18am

President Hu Jintao will officially retire as the military chief today after stepping down from his party leadership post at the end of the Communist Party's week-long 18th national congress yesterday. It clears the way for the first clean transfer of power the party has seen in two decades.

Top military brass confirmed a South China Morning Post report that Hu will go into full retirement to make way for his successor, Xi Jinping.

Despite doubt about his willingness to give up power, something that has become a focal point in the once-a-decade leadership succession, Hu, 70 next month, will hand over the top job at the party's Central Military Commission (CMC) to Xi when the party's new Central Committee meets for the first time today to usher in a new generation of leaders.

When asked if Hu would cling to the top military post, as his predecessor Jiang Zemin did a decade ago after relinquishing his role as the country's president - as Hu will do in March - General Zhang Qinsheng , the People's Liberation Army's executive deputy chief of general staff and one of Hu's closest allies, said yesterday: "Hu will not stay on."

Senior Colonel Li Hong , the political commissar of the Nanjing Army Command College, said: "Judging by chairman Hu's character and virtue, it is likely that he will no longer remain in his office with the CMC."

Hu relinquished his position as party general secretary at the closing session of the congress, which he presided over.

A total of 2,307 delegates elected 205 full members to the Central Committee and 171 alternate members, Xinhua said. Ninety-one of the previous committee's full members were re-elected and 55 existing alternate members made full members.

In theory, the new leadership line-up, including the Politburo and its Standing Committee, should be elected by the Central Committee today, but it will have already been decided behind closed doors by the incumbent leaders, their successors and party elders such as Jiang.

Apart from Xi and premier-to-be Li Keqiang , a downsized Politburo Standing Committee is also expected to include vice-premier and Chongqing party chief Zhang Dejiang , propaganda chief Liu Yunshan , Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng , Tianjin party chief Zhang Gaoli and vice-premier Wang Qishan . They were all elected members of the new Central Committee yesterday.

Although Ling Jihua , Hu's former top aide who was involved in the cover-up of a deadly Ferrari crash that claimed the life of his only son early this year, was also re-elected, he was apparently a target of resentment - winning the fewest votes of any full committee member. Delegates said Ling received 94 'no' votes in yesterday's closed-door ballot.

Details of the voting were not made public.