The Communist Party has named rising star Sun Zhengcai as party chief of Chongqing, the epicentre of the nation's worst political turmoil in more than two decades.
Sources say Shanghai vice-mayor Tu Guangshao will soon team up with him, becoming the southwestern municipality's new mayor.
Sun, 49, became one of the Politburo's two youngest members when he was admitted to the powerful body after last week's party congress. The top post in Chongqing was previously held by Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang, who succeeded disgraced Bo Xilai earlier this year.
In a separate statement issued later yesterday, Xinhua said Shanghai mayor Han Zheng would succeed Yu Zhengsheng as Shanghai's party chief. Yu and Zhang were made members of the party's supreme Politburo Standing Committee last week.
Xinhua said that Zhao Leji, who became the party's personnel chief on Monday, flew to Chongqing and Shanghai to announce the appointments yesterday. The appointment was made after the party's Central Committee "took all things into consideration", Xinhua reported.
Sun, previously party boss of the northeastern province of Jilin and a former agriculture minister, is considered a contender for a top leadership post in the next 10 years.
Analysts said that running Chongqing had become an eye-catching role and a touchstone for judging the performance of potential top leaders.
"It is so important. If Sun can handle the new job well, it could clear the way for a higher position in the future, just like Zhang Dejiang" said Hu Xingdou, a political commentator at the Beijing Institute of Technology.
Meanwhile, five separate sources in Chongqing, Jilin and Shanghai said Tu, 53, would become Chongqing's mayor, succeeding Huang Qifan, by March.
Huang was promoted to full membership of the Central Committee last week, despite earlier reports that he had been implicated in the scandal surrounding Bo's downfall. Speculation has been rife about Huang's next step, with options including top roles in the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) and the Ministry of Commerce.
Tu, a former CSRC vice-chairman and a financial market pioneer following the introduction of economic reform in the late 1980s, has been a vice-mayor of Shanghai since 2007.
Government officials and business leaders in Shanghai described Tu as a capable, low-key technocrat, keen on liberalising the city's asset management, securities and commodity futures sectors.
"He is a key person who helped Shanghai consolidate its role as the country's No1 financial centre," said an official with the city's financial services office. "Unlike rivals who aggressively offered preferential policies to attract capital and talent, Shanghai, under Tu's direction, carefully framed detailed policies and rules before submitting applications to the central government for policy changes."
If Tu does move to Chongqing, the assignment of a mayor with impressive financial management credentials will be a sign of Beijing's approval for its growth strategies. Chongqing's government says it will push ahead with plans to build a regional financial centre.