Li Zhanshu , newly appointed director of the General Office of the Communist Party's Central Committee, appears to be a transitional figure despite being named to one of the most powerful positions in Beijing.
Like his predecessor Ling Jihua , Li rose through the Communist Youth League, a key base of support for President Hu Jintao . Observers compared Hu's decision to put Li in the post, which manages the daily activities of top officials, to former president Jiang Zemin's appointment of his own protégé, Wang Gang , during Hu's rise a decade ago.
Hu is expected to hand over party leadership to Vice-President Xi Jinping after the 18th party congress this autumn. Li, 62, was previously the party boss of Guizhou province.
"It seems Hu has appointed Li to help Xi, the incoming new secretary general, in dealing with extremely complicated and crucial party matters day in and day out," a Beijing-based media source said.
The source said that Li was someone who was also seen as acceptable and trustworthy to Xi, because he had been the magistrate of Wuji county in Hebei province in the early 1980s, when Xi was in charge of nearby Zhengding county. It is believed that Li and Xi have stayed in touch over the years.
Li subsequently served as the Communist Youth League's Hebei provincial secretary from 1986 to 1990. However, Li's age means his prospects for further promotion are limited, even if he manages to get a seat on the Politburo after the 19th party congress in five years. He would be 72 - and thus due for retirement - by the 20th party congress in 2022.
Meanwhile, several sources said they expected that Li's predecessor, Ling, would also have few opportunities for advancement after his transfer to head the party's central United Front Work Department. There had previously been speculation that Ling - Hu's closest aide - could possibly get a seat on the Politburo. But the sources now expect that Li will be given a consolation posting, such as Jiang's protégé Wang Gang and Du Qinglin , another director of the united-front agency.
Wang was named vice-chairman of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference after he retired. Du was given the same title when he was leading the United Front Work Department.
A source in Beijing said Ling's political problems were made worse by his ties to the corruption case of disgraced former railways minister Liu Zhijun .