Several secretaries, allies and children of former state leaders or revolutionary veterans have been appointed to the presidium of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), whose annual session kicked off yesterday afternoon in Beijing.
That sparked speculation that they would become standing members of the nation's top political advisory body.
Among the CPPCC's 323 presidium members are Lieutenant General Nian Fuchun, an assistant to the director of the army's General Political Department, who was a personal secretary to Deng Xiaoping in military affairs; and Chen Jiping, executive vice-president of the China Law Society and the party secretary of its leadership group, who was a secretary to Qiao Shi, a former chairman of the National People's Congress.
Chen Shiju, director of outgoing President Hu Jintao's office, and Meng Xuenong , executive deputy secretary of the Work Committee of Departments under the party's Central Committee, who has long been seen as one of Hu's close allies, were also selected as presidium members.
All four of the aforementioned new members appeared on the presidium yesterday during the opening of this year's CPPCC session.
According to past practices, anyone who secures a place on the presidium usually stands a good chance of becoming a standing member, a ministerial-level position, of the top advisory body. For Chen Shiju, becoming a standing CPPCC member could serve as a consolation prize, in light of his work as Hu's personal aide for years, after having surprisingly failed to win a place on either the Communist Party's 205-strong Central Committee or as one of its 171 alternate members, during a power reshuffle in November.
Huang Liman, a former top legislator in Guangdong who was widely considered one of former president Jiang Zemin's closest allies, was also named a member of the presidium. She was the office manager for the former Electronics Industry Ministry when Jiang was its party chief in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, at least a handful of descendants of revolutionary leaders, or so-called princelings, including Deng Nan, Deng Xiaoping's daughter; Chen Yuan, the son of conservative former party veteran Chen Yun; Li Xiaolin, the daughter of former hardline president Li Xiannian ; and Wan Jifei, the son of Wan Li, former chief of the nation's top legislature, also appeared on the presidium yesterday after being selected as members on Saturday. General Peng Xiaofeng, former political commissar of the army's strategic missile force and the son of well-known army general Peng Xuefeng, was also selected to the presidium.
Aside from those who found themselves lucky enough to be born into families of dignitaries or to have developed strong political connections, a total of five current regional leaders were on the stage.
The new CPPCC leadership, which is expected to be headed by Yu Zhengsheng, former party chief of Shanghai and a current Politburo Standing Committee member, will be elected and later made public on March 11, the eve of the closing day of this year's session.