Workers had hardly cleared away the ballot boxes from the Great Hall of the People when campaigning began to find the man at the core of the next generation of leaders. Jiang Zemin's term runs until 2002, by which time other members of the third-generation leadership, such as Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji and even Vice-Premier Li Lanqing, will also call it quits. Competition has already begun among the generation of 50-somethings to fill that leadership vacuum by the 16th congress in 2002. Frontrunner for the title of 'core' of the fourth-generation is Hu Jintao, 55, the organisation chief who was inducted into the supreme Politburo Standing Committee five years ago. Mr Hu, a former head of the Communist Youth League, has impressed leaders from all factions with his political skills and reformist orientation. Wen Jiabao, 55, the technocrat-cum-party functionary, will give Mr Hu some competition. The former aide to ousted party chief Zhao Ziyang was promoted to full Politburo membership yesterday. Mr Wen has earned the praise of Mr Jiang for his administrative ability. He is also acceptable to most factions of the party. Among the President's own Shanghai Faction, two frontrunners to be top dogs at the 16th party congress are Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo, 56, and head of the General Office of the Central Committee Zeng Qinghong. Mr Wu was Mr Jiang's candidate for Politburo Standing Committee this year, and the fact that he has been trumped by both Zhu Rongji and Li Lanqing could hurt his political future. Mr Zeng, 58, has been Mr Jiang's principal adviser and troubleshooter since they came to Beijing in June 1989. However, during elections yesterday for the Politburo, Mr Zeng barely managed to become an alternate member. A political source said he did poorly because of anti-Shanghai Faction sentiments among Central Committee members.