Hu Jintao
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Paper launches drive to boost party chiefs

Hu Jintao

In a new propaganda blitz, the People's Daily is publishing a series of special reports heaping praise on the economic success of certain regions - a move aimed at helping their party chiefs secure promotion at the next party congress, analysts say.

Ranging from four to eight pages, the reports focus on the progress the regions have made over the past five years.

Six areas have been included so far: Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, Liaoning, Jilin and Inner Mongolia.

Analysts disagreed on whether the reports indicated the whole leadership's endorsement of the political handling of these regions, or if they reflected only certain leaders' views. But they agreed the reports would help boost the chances of the party chiefs' being promoted.

'The reports are definitely designed to prepare public opinion for those waiting for promotion at the upcoming 18th party congress,' said Johnny Lau Yui-siu, a Hong Kong-based commentator.

Tianjin party boss and Politburo member Zhang Gaoli is widely expected to ascend to the innermost nine-member Politburo Standing Committee.

The party bosses of Hebei, Shanxi, Liaoning, Jilin and Inner Mongolia - Zhang Qingli, Yuan Chunqing, Wang Min , Sun Zhengcai and Hu Chunhua - are seen as possible candidates for higher roles.

All five are members of the decision-making Central Committee.

The party chiefs of Hebei, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia are seen as political allies of President Hu Jintao , as they spent much of their career with the China Youth League, Hu's powerbase.

'It is definitely Hu's aim to promote his allies at the party congress,' said Dr Liu Kang, a professor of Asian and Middle Eastern studies at Duke University.

But Zhang Lifan , a political affairs analyst, said that whether the series of reports represented the consensus of top leaders would depend on how many areas were covered.

'If the People's Daily runs specials for all province-level regions, it might be simply a propaganda campaign to endorse the achievements and progress made under the incumbent central leadership,' said Zhang, who was formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

But Liu, who heads the American university's China research centre, said he believed promotions had not been finalised as leaders were still meeting. And 'the series of reports are designed to prepare public opinion for those Hu favourite candidates before the top leadership finalises the leadership line-up'.

The propaganda campaign comes as incumbent and retired leaders gather in Beidaihe , the summer seaside resort near Beijing, to finalise decisions on the new leadership line-up and major policies ahead of the party congress.

The congress, to be held in late autumn, will see the largest reshuffle of top positions in recent history as seven Politburo Standing Committee members are due to retire.

In addition, 17 of the 25 members of the Politburo and about 200 of the 350 Central Committee members and alternate members are due to step down.