Former Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin moved down the top leadership's pecking order at his own request, state media reported yesterday.
Jiang asked the party's new Central Committee to put his name among those of other retired leaders, and behind incumbent party and state leaders, after the party's national congress in November, Xinhua reported.
It praised Jiang's move as "reflecting the noble character and sterling integrity and open-mindedness of a Communist".
At the funeral of General Yang Baibing on Monday, Jiang's name appeared after those of members of the party's Politburo Standing Committee and state leaders for the first time since his full retirement in 2004.
Jiang had previously ranked second only to President Hu Jintao at official occasions following his retirement.
Dai Qing , a veteran journalist and commentator in Beijing, said yesterday the hierarchy of the party's top echelon had long been meticulously calculated on a political basis which accurately reflected the real political clout of a politician.
He said the new ranking showed Jiang had relinquished power - at least to a certain extent. "Instead of being Jiang's initiative, it must be an under-the-table deal made between Jiang and the party's new leaders," Dai said.
Zhang Lifan , a Beijing-based political analyst, also said Jiang had most likely been forced to take a step back.
"This may signify the beginning of putting an end to retired party elders' intervention in political affairs," Zhang said, adding that party veterans had played key roles in the country's politics over the past 10 years and had prevented political reform.
"A leader should stay away from the line-up of elite leaders after his or her retirement," Zhang said. "Why did he keep a seat in the political ranking after stepping down? That's anything but normal."