Hu Jintao

Hu remains an enigma as he hands over power to Xi

Leader keeps poker face as he leaves the stage, and analysts expect his influence to wane swiftly

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 4:19am


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Hu Jintao maintained his poker face and remained an enigma to many on the last day in power yesterday as he handed over his last two top posts - state president and head of the state's Central Military Commission - to Xi Jinping.

When Hu appeared on the presidium in the Great Hall of the People yesterday, 21 National People's Congress deputies from the third row stood up and shook hands with him, one by one.

More than half were People's Liberation Army top brass, including chief of general staff General Fang Fenghui , seen as one of Hu's protégés. They saluted Hu before reaching out their hands.

Hu, wearing a dark-purple tie, was largely expressionless and did not speak to Xi, on his left, during the hour-long announcement of the "newly elected" leadership, including the state president, his deputy and the chairman of the NPC.

Unlike his predecessor, Jiang Zemin , who managed to secure top posts for many of his allies upon his retirement, Hu appeared to have built up much less political capital for himself as he withdrew from the political scene yesterday.

Many analysts said they believed his political influence would dwindle quickly.

Hu's former top aide, Ling Jihua , was the least popular of the vice-chairmen of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference elected on Tuesday, recording the highest number of votes opposing his appointment.

Pundits said Hu had let down people at home and abroad who had anticipated change and political reform when he was appointed 10 years ago, although he had offered a glimmer of hope in 2003, in the early days of his rule, when his team dealt with severe acute respiratory syndrome and scrapped the notorious detention centres for beggars and vagrants after a young man was beaten to death.

Political heavyweights including premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang , long seen as one of Hu's closest allies, new CPPCC chairman Yu Zhengsheng , General Xu Qiliang , a CMC vice-chairman, new vice-president Li Yuanchao and Liu Yandong , an incoming vice-premier, lined up to shake Hu's hand as he left the political stage yesterday.