President Jiang Zemin's eldest son, Dr Jiang Mianheng, is tipped to play a big role in mainland politics after the pivotal 16th Communist Party Congress slated for 2002. And Mr Jiang and other senior Politburo members have decided to speed up the pace of rejuvenation to ensure the party is fit for the 21st century. A party source said yesterday Mr Jiang, 73, had recently started to consult his 47-year-old son on a broad range of affairs of state. Last year, Dr Jiang, an engineer who graduated from Drexel University in the United States, was appointed a vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dr Jiang, who runs several hi-tech companies based in Shanghai, has continued to maintain an interest in the Internet and telecoms after his appointment to the vice-ministerial position. 'Up to last year, President Jiang mainly talked about hi-tech and related subjects with his son,' the source said. 'In recent months, however, the younger Jiang has advised his father on matters ranging from politics and economic policy to foreign affairs. He is expected to play a big role in party and government affairs after the 16th party congress.' A Western diplomat in Beijing said that when Mr Jiang was criticised last year for giving the senior position to his son, a Jiang aide pointed out that late patriarch Deng Xiaoping had also agreed to his daughter, Deng Nan, being made a vice-minister of science and technology. 'It is assumed in political circles in the capital that the younger Jiang will one day play a role comparable to the two powerful daughters of Deng, Deng Nan and Deng Rong,' the diplomat said. 'Some cadres claim Jiang [Mianheng] has eclipsed even close aides of the President such as [Organisation Department of the Communist Party chief] Zeng Qinghong and [Vice-President] Hu Jintao. In any case, the young Jiang is being treated with a lot of respect by senior officials.' Meanwhile, solid steps have been taken to speed up rejuvenation in both civilian and military sectors. It is believed Mr Jiang and Mr Zeng, who have a dominant say in personnel arrangements at the 16th congress, want more than a token number of cadres in their 40s to be inducted to the Central Committee and the Politburo. The pro-Beijing Hong Kong daily Wen Wei Po reported yesterday that Beijing would ask many cadres who had not reached the normal retirement age of 60 to retreat from the frontline. The paper said officials with the rank of head of department or district chief who had reached 58 would be asked to give up their positions and instead take up less substantial posts. The same was true of officials with the rank of head of office or county chief who had reached 55; and officials with the rank of section head who had reached 52. PLA sources said several senior army officers who were close to retirement age had asked younger officers to take over their jobs on a de facto basis. But these officers would hold on to their positions until their formal retirement.