Beijing mayor Guo Jinlong was promoted to party secretary of the capital yesterday at the close of the municipal Communist Party congress, paving the way for him to become a Politburo member at this autumn's national party congress.
Guo, a close ally of President Hu Jintao, replaces 70-year-old Liu Qi and his promotion means Hu will still have a strong influence on affairs in the capital well after his retirement next year.
In a speech delivered to reporters after his appointment, Guo, 65, called on party members to stick to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics and maintain unity with the party central committee.
'We are keenly aware of our difficult task and grave responsibility,' he said. 'We must strive to deliver satisfactory results for all the people of Beijing.'
Wang Anshun, the municipality's second deputy party secretary, was promoted to first deputy party secretary and is set to succeed Guo as the capital's mayor.
Wang, 55, has extensive experience in the oil industry, a power base of former vice-president Zeng Qinghong . His 2007 transfer from Shanghai to become the capital's second deputy party secretary, coming in the wake of the sacking of disgraced Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu , surprised many observers of mainland politics. He was among the favourites to succeed Wang Qishan as Beijing mayor in 2007 but the job went to Guo instead.
The promotion of Ji Lin , the city's executive vice-mayor, to succeed Wang Anshun as second deputy party secretary is seen as another move confirming Hu's influence in the capital's new leadership line-up. Ji previously served as head of the capital's Communist Youth League and the youth league is Hu's power base.
Beijing usually holds its party congress in May, but state media only announced its starting date last month, fuelling rumours of a power struggle inside the party following the dismissal of former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai for violating party discipline.
Analysts expect that Guo, like his predecessors as Beijing party secretary, will join the party's 25-member Politburo at the national party congress, but he is likely to be a member for only five more years because of his age.
'It seems that the arrangement for Guo is a kind of transition,' said political affairs commentator Zhang Lifan. 'But this arrangement is significant in maintaining Hu's influence.'
Guo never held any major office in the Communist Youth League but spent more than a decade in Tibet , including four years as the region's party boss between 2000 and 2004.
That brought him to the attention of Hu, who held the same office between 1988 and 1992.
Guo was moved to Anhui in 2004, becoming the provincial party secretary and focusing on the province's economic development, before moving to Beijing in 2007.
He visited Taiwan in February, becoming the first mainland provincial-level chief to visit the island after Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected as its president.
The capital's party congress appointed 13 members to the municipal party standing committee yesterday afternoon, after electing 84 committee members and 55 members of the party's disciplinary commission.