The sudden departure of Shanghai's former mayor, Xu Kuangdi, in December was due to his age and not a policy dispute, the city's new mayor said yesterday. Chen Liangyu, 56, also suggested that Mr Xu, who was moved to an academic post in Beijing, might have another job in the central Government in the future. 'I can tell you clearly this had to do with his age,' Mr Chen said in his first news conference since he was confirmed in his post on Tuesday. 'There would be many people opposed if you don't step down at the required age.' Government officials are supposed to retire at 65 but they can stay on beyond that once they reach the Communist Party's top levels. Mr Xu, 64, was technically eligible to serve out his term but was widely believed to have encountered friction in his relations with Huang Ju, the city's Communist Party chief. The popular mayor's sudden departure, and the brief explanation given in the official media, was seen as evidence of infighting ahead of the party's 16th congress in autumn. Decisions will be made then on who fills the top jobs in the party and Government. 'It is true that in some places there are conflicts between the party and the Government,' Mr Chen said. 'But Shanghai is not like that.' Mr Chen did not reply directly to a suggestion that the lack of transparency in the shake-up was not in keeping with an open city that billed itself as the mainland's commercial centre. But he said there would be stability and continuity in the new administration. He said there would be no change in the city's plans for a magnetic levitation train to link the city centre with Pudong airport. The high-speed train, which uses German technology, was strongly supported by the former mayor. Mr Chen said Shanghai would also move ahead on its other major projects, such as a deepwater port, the expansion of its roads and metro system and enlargement of a railway station. The city also would try to shift all international flights to Pudong airport, which has been under-utilised since it was opened 2.5 years ago. The city's older Hongqiao airport will become a hub for domestic travel. The mayor, who graduated from the army's institute of engineering and has served in several government posts, including deputy mayor, said his hobbies included tennis and classical music. He was briefly put off balance by a question about a ban on the city's apartment-dwellers from hanging clothes outside to dry in places visible from the street. 'Is there such a regulation?' he asked one of his aides. When told that there was, though not strictly enforced, he gave a reply that spoke volumes on China's legal system: 'There may be a law but the Government does not want to force things on the people.'