Guangdong's branch of the Communist Party elected Zhang Dejiang to a second term as provincial party secretary yesterday, but analysts said his election did not preclude a later transfer to another position.
Announcing the election results, Mr Zhang said: 'I will not say anything more about myself since I have just been introduced [by the master of ceremonies].'
Instead, he shifted the focus to newly re-elected vice-secretaries Huang Huahua and Liu Yupu .
Mr Huang has one more year to run in his five-year term as governor. If he were to stand down, the party by tradition would require his successor be a cadre of vice-secretary rank, which puts the focus on Mr Liu.
Mr Liu, 58, is a Shandong native and worked with President Hu Jintao in the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League from 1982 to 1985.
He was transferred to Guangdong in 2000, as head of the party committee's organisation department from a similar position in Shaanxi , and was elected vice-party secretary in 2004.
Analysts expect Mr Zhang to move to Beijing to take up a central government job before or after the party's 17th national congress in October.
Once touted as a fifth-generation leader, he transferred to Guangdong as party boss in November 2002 from Zhejiang province, where he was party chief.
A local analyst said Mr Zhang had a deeper understanding of Guangdong's issues than he did five years ago. 'Guangdong will benefit a lot if he stays,' he said.
Although he has been mocked for studying economics in North Korea, Mr Zhang has tried to instil the long-term vision that observers say is so lacking in Guangdong but crucial to its continued prosperity.
He has done this by taking on projects such as promoting small and medium-sized businesses, efforts that do not score immediate political points. He has recently spoken strongly on the need for innovation.
The analyst said Mr Zhang's re-election did not mean he would not be promoted. His predecessor, Li Changchun , a Politburo Standing Committee member, was also elected for a second term before he was moved to Beijing.
'I think the reason why the party congresses in Beijing and Guangdong were convened so late was because the leaders there will be transferred,' he said.
'They are just waiting for the right positions in Beijing.'