Communist Party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan is tipped to lead the Secretariat of the party's Central Committee - another victory for the conservatives in their efforts to gain control of the party's power centre in the once-in-a-decade leadership reshuffle.
Meanwhile, in a move that confirms earlier reports that Vice-Premier Wang Qishan would be elevated to the Politburo Standing Committee, where he would lead the fight against corruption, Wang Dong, a party congress delegate and chairman of the Gansu Dayu Water-Saving Company, said the vice-premier was among the nominees for the next Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Party congress delegates will vote today on the composition of the party's top anti-graft watchdog, of which Wang Qishan is not currently a member.
As for Liu, sources with knowledge of his appointment as the Secretariat's first secretary said the party hardliner would be given a key portfolio of overseeing party and state personnel changes and major party affairs. He is almost certain to have also secured a coveted spot on the Politburo Standing Committee, which is expected to be reduced from nine to seven members.
The new line-up would be presented some time after 11am tomorrow, the congress' press office said yesterday.
Liu, 65, has been considered as a member of the faction loyal to former party secretary Jiang Zemin, although he cut his teeth in the Inner Mongolia branch of the Youth League. The party's youth outreach arm has long been regarded as a key power base of Hu Jintao and his "Youth League faction".
The Central Committee Secretariat is a powerful organ affiliated with the Politburo and its Standing Committee. Liu has been serving as the Secretariat's second secretary for a decade, reporting to Zeng Qinghong and Xi Jinping when each served five-year terms as its first secretary.
Johnny Lau Yui-siu, a veteran Hong Kong-based China watcher, attributed Liu's promotion to his allegiance to Jiang and the enormous clout he continues to wield within the party.
Lau said that finalising Liu's promotion would indicate that the conservatives had gained an upper hand in leadership negotiations, a major blow to the country's beleaguered liberals who had hoped new blood in the central leadership would push long-delayed political reforms.
Liu, a native of Xinzhou in Shanxi province, has served as party propaganda chief since 1993 and joined the Politburo in 2002. During his 10 years as top censor, he has been criticised by journalists and media experts for introducing increasingly draconian press controls and online policing.
Qiao Mu, an associate communications professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, compared the way Liu's department micromanages the press to a firefighter putting out lots of small fires. Media outlets were flooded with gag orders from his department on a daily basis.