What looks like a routine appointment has aroused many questions about the inner workings of Chinese politics, particularly issues of personnel and Beijing-regional relations. Last week Xinhua devoted just a few paragraphs to the appointment as acting mayor of Shenzhen of the head of Guangdong's Publicity Department, Yu Youjun. Mr Yu replaced Li Zibin, who has been elevated to vice-minister at the State Planning Commission. At the suggestion of Premier Zhu Rongji, Mr Li has been made concurrently a vice-head of the General Office of the Leading Group on Developing the Western Provinces. Many officials in Shenzhen and Guangdong said Mr Li deserved his promotion. He is credited with the transformation of the special economic zone (SEZ) into the nation's foremost hi-tech hub. Mr Zhu is said to want Mr Li to apply his Shenzhen experience to developing technology-based industries in the central and western areas. But Mr Yu's appointment has raised eyebrows. A shrewd party functionary, Mr Yu, 47, is a protege of Guangdong party secretary Li Changchun as well as Mr Li's predecessor party boss, Xie Fei. While Mr Yu is considered capable, it is believed he owes his meteoric rise less to his track record than to the recommendation of Mr Li, a Politburo member and a close associate of President Jiang Zemin. Mr Yu's appointment confirms a new personnel principle: that cadres with party backgrounds are often favoured over veteran government officials. 'Party functionaries are quick to spot ideological trends and adept at toeing Beijing's line,' said a Shenzhen cadre. 'Cadres with mostly administrative backgrounds are considered more experienced and innovative in economic work.' He added that particularly for economic zones such as Shenzhen, it is expected that veteran officials such as Li Zibin, and his predecessor Li Youwei, would be chosen. 'Yu's appointment is proof of the importance President Jiang has put on picking cadres who pass muster ideologically,' he said. 'There are worries, however, that cadres trusted by Beijing may not necessarily be bold enough to hack out new paths in economic reform.' The appointment of Mr Yu also attests to the continued dominance of Guangzhou over Shenzhen, despite widespread speculation that Beijing may in a couple of years' time make the SEZ a directly administered city like Shanghai and Chongqing. As a Guangzhou-based government adviser put it, at least in personnel affiliation Shenzhen's status has declined despite its economic achievements. 'Up to the mid-1990s, the party secretaries or mayors of Shenzhen were mostly northerners appointed by Beijing with token consultation with Guangzhou,' the adviser said. 'The pattern was broken when Zhang Gaoli, a vice-party secretary of Guangdong, was made Shenzhen party boss in early 1998. The Yu appointment shows that top Shenzhen cadres have to report to Guangzhou rather than Beijing.' Then there is the question of why the frontrunner for the mayor's job, Bo Xilai, lost out. The son of party elder Bo Yibo, Mr Bo was a long-term mayor of Dalian before he was appointed its party boss last year. He won widespread admiration for turning the Liaoning province port into a 'northern Hong Kong'. A Liaoning-based official said one reason could be that Mr Bo was too independent-minded and outspoken for the post. 'Many in and out of China look to Shenzhen for new trends for the entire country,' the cadre said. 'Beijing fears Bo may say things that are too ahead of the times.' Another reason was that given his 'princeling' background and sizeable track record, it is feared that Mr Bo may not necessarily take orders from party secretary Zhang - or from Guangzhou's mandarins.