Premier Zhu Rongji has been criticised for not delegating powers to senior ministers while elevating too many of his proteges too fast.
Beijing sources said yesterday Mr Zhu's stature had risen owing to the support most National People's Congress (NPC) members had given him in the just-ended plenary session.
However, the economic tsar had taken flak for not delegating authority to vice-premiers Li Lanqing and Wu Bangguo.
Officially, Mr Li is the Politburo Standing Committee member in charge of the economy. However, since Mr Zhu became Premier a year ago, Mr Li has dealt mainly with sectors including education and sports.
Even Mr Li's old portfolio of foreign trade has gone to two Zhu proteges, State Councillor Wu Yi and Minister of Foreign Trade Shi Guangsheng.
The portfolio of Ms Wu, also a Politburo member, is Industry and State-Owned Enterprises. But much of the policy-making on the reform of state firms has been handled by Mr Zhu himself and his ally, head of the State Economic and Trade Commission, Sheng Huaren.
Ms Wu kept an extremely low profile during the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
'Zhu has claimed that Wu lacks foresight and boldness, while Wu has complained that she has been left out of the power loop,' said a Western diplomat.
Within the past year, Mr Zhu had been largely successful in appointing several associates to senior positions, said the diplomat.
Most of the Prime Minister's men are installed in financial departments such as the People's Bank of China, headed by Dai Xianglong, a long-time ally. Most chiefs of the bank's nine regional offices set up recently also have ties to Mr Zhu.
Both the minister and the executive vice-minister of the Finance Ministry, respectively Xiang Huaicheng and Lou Jiwei, are Zhu associates.
The Premier has managed to extend his tentacles to the regional administrations with the appointments of proteges to top posts in provinces ranging from Guizhou to Jilin.
In addition, Mr Zhu has set up a powerful think-tank which has input in most areas of economic and social policy.
The brains trust often conflicts with similar units reporting to other senior cadres, such as President Jiang Zemin.