Premier Zhu Rongji's cabinet illustrates many of the problems the economic tsar will face during his five-year term: he has less than full control over the State Council, and the forces of the ancien regime are slow to fade away. An examination of the background and factional affiliation of the four vice-premiers, five state councillors and 29 ministers shows most of these top cadres profess allegiance to Mr Zhu's chief rival, President Jiang Zemin, rather than to their acerbic new boss. Veteran China watchers have identified at least 10 ministers as having close links with Mr Jiang, who was on Monday given a new five-year term as head of state. The President's men in Mr Zhu's cabinet include Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo; Defence Minister General Chi Haotian; Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan; Development Planning Commission Minister Zeng Peiyan; Education Minister Chen Zhili; Construction Minister Yu Zhengsheng; State Security Minister Xu Yongyue; Minister of Information Industry Wu Jichuan; Railway Minister Fu Zhihuan; and Health Minister Zhang Wenkang. For Messrs Tang, Zeng, Xu, and Han, as well as Ms Chen, Mr Jiang's recommendation was 'critical' to their elevation. Likewise, the new Procurator-General, Han Zhubin, who had a lacklustre career as Railway Minister, would have been forced to retire had it not been for the President's patronage. Many of Mr Zhu's cabinet stalwarts are card-carrying members of the so-called Shanghai Faction headed by Mr Jiang. For example, Mr Wu, who served with Mr Jiang in Shanghai in the mid-1980s, was transferred by the President to Beijing in 1995 with the intention that he might become premier one day. Ms Chen, another of the President's Shanghai cronies, is expected to be made ideology tsar soon. Moreover, the great majority of the vice-premiers and state councillors, while not necessarily Mr Jiang's confidantes, would lean towards the President rather than Mr Zhu should factional strife flare up. This is true of Vice-Premiers Li Lanqing and Wen Jiabao, usually identified as cadres with no obvious factional stripes. Vice-Premier Li's relationship with Mr Jiang went back to the 1970s, when they both worked at the First Automobile Plant in Changchun. It is well known that when the Politburo first discussed the identity of former premier Li Peng's successor in late 1996, Mr Jiang gave his vote to Mr Wu and Mr Li Lanqing, not Mr Zhu. Mr Wen, a fast-rising star, is somewhat grateful to the President for not sidelining him despite his close ties with ousted party chiefs Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. The President's influence in the Zhu cabinet is all the more pronounced given the former's alliance with Li Peng, who has retained formidable clout in the State Council. In spite of Mr Zhu's avowed attempt to weed out the so-called Faction of the Alumnae of Soviet Colleges, quite a few of Mr Li's old comrades have remained. Former State Council secretary-general and Li protege Luo Gan has raised eyebrows by staying on as a state councillor in charge of judicial and security affairs. Since economic reform is intertwined with legal issues such as the definition of corruption and insider trading, Mr Luo's team could hamstring economic liberalisation being pushed by Zhu & Co. But how about Mr Zhu's own men? In the cabinet that the NPC is due to endorse today, surprisingly few ministers can be called Zhu loyalists. Wang Zhongyu, who will be made a state councillor and Secretary-General, will serve as the Premier's overall trouble-shooter. And Dai Xianglong, the veteran Governor of the People's Bank of China, would be the point man for Mr Zhu's policy of macro-level adjustments and controls. Mr Dai's failure to be awarded the concurrent rank of state councillor, however, has dealt a blow to the Zhu camp. Analysts have cast doubt on the factional affiliation of the surprising choice for Mr Wang's successor as head of the State Economic and Trade Commission, Sheng Huaren. A veteran chief of the China Petrochemical Corp, Mr Sheng has won Mr Zhu's praise for building up a hugely successful conglomerate that is a model for enterprise reform. Yet, the analysts said, Mr Sheng's patrons also included Mr Li Lanqing and state councillor-elect Wu Yi . Moreover, the oil executive probably had links with the Jiang faction, particularly Jiang protege and Politburo member Zeng Qinghong, who worked in the petroleum field in the early 1980s. 'A late bloomer, Zhu was unable to start forming his own faction until he became vice-premier in 1992,' a Beijing source said. 'Most members of his cabal of young technocrats are only up to the vice-ministerial level in seniority. 'The nomination of the party's Organisation Department is required for posts at ministerial level or above. And Jiang has much more control over the organisation apparatus than Zhu does.' The source said Mr Zhu must try to broaden his support by building bridges to politicians not aligned with President Jiang or former premier Li. For example, in spite of having completely retired, former NPC chairman Qiao Shi has retained sizeable influence in the legal and security arena. Qiao associates still on the political stage include Politburo members Wei Jianxing and Tian Jiyun, as well as the new police chief Jia Chunwang. More important, Mr Zhu must learn to play the people's card. The 98 per cent of the NPC votes that he garnered during his confirmation as Premier yesterday was larger than anticipated. Equally unexpected was the overwhelming support the deputies have given to his bold plan to bring about a 'small government'. This shows that despite his well-known unpopularity among regional cadres - who have accused him of rehashing old-style recentralisation measures - Mr Zhu has a fast-growing following across the land. To survive, the fire-spitting supremo may have to take a leaf from Chairman Mao Zedong's book. If the new Premier can enlist the support of intellectuals and ordinary people alike in promoting clean government and dismantling the quasi-Leninist party-and-state structure, he can perhaps muster a large enough mass base to clobber his political foes and weed out the dead wood. This, however, presupposes that Mr Zhu has a zeal for political reform, which he has yet to demonstrate.