Political foes of President Jiang Zemin are opposing his three candidates for promotion to the Politburo Standing Committee.
Mainland sources said yesterday that jockeying for Politburo positions had reached fever pitch at the summer resort of Beidaihe, where the leadership has begun a series of informal meetings on personnel and policy issues.
The sources said most of the seven Standing Committee members had put forward candidates for the three slots available.
One position will be left vacant by the retirement of General Liu Huaqing. Two new ones will be created by the committee expanding to nine members at the forthcoming 15th Party Congress.
The sources said Mr Jiang favoured Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo, propaganda chief Ding Guangen and vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission Zhang Wannian.
But only one other committee colleague, premier Li Peng, has given Mr Jiang unreserved backing.
The sources said other committee members, including Jiang foes such as National People's Congress Chairman Qiao Shi and General Liu, had nominated other choices for induction into the supreme council.
These included Vice-Premiers Li Lanqing and Qian Qichen, disciplinary and trade union chief Wei Jianxing and General Chi Haotian.
Mr Wei, who is also Beijing party secretary, is considered a Qiao protege. Both Mr Li Lanqing and Mr Qian are deemed acceptable to all sides.
'At this stage, Jiang and his foes are nowhere near agreement,' a diplomatic source said.
Mr Qiao had proposed that personnel issues be ironed out by inviting party elders to join the committee deliberations, he said.
But Mr Jiang is reportedly against involving the elders. The source said that Mr Jiang would only agree to let the full Politburo settle the differences.
It is understood veterans including Yang Shangkun, Wan Li and Bo Yibo had arrived at Beidaihe last week.
Most of the elders are believed to be closer to Mr Qiao than to Mr Jiang.
Final decisions on Politburo membership will be made by the time the leaders return to Beijing next month.