SENIOR Communist Party leader Qiao Shi is trying to build up his political clout in preparation for the post-Deng Xiaoping era, according to Chinese sources. A source said the Politburo Standing Committee member had become increasingly assertive on national affairs since he became chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) in March. Mr Qiao had tried to strengthen the role of the national legislature in deciding the course of national development, he said. Constitutionally the most powerful body in the country, the NPC has been ridiculed as a rubber-stamp parliament. The source said the national legislature was set to tighten the legislative power of the executive branch to avoid abuses. He said the delegation of legislative powers to the State Council and localities since 1979 had contributed to weakening the NPC. Mr Qiao has repeatedly emphasised the importance of the NPC in building up a system of law and democracy in the past few months. The source said: ''The 'Qiao-Zhu' axis is coming,'' referring to a system centred around the NPC under the leadership of Mr Qiao and the State Council led by Zhu Rongji. Mr Qiao left yesterday for Jakarta at the start of a goodwill visit to the five nations of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). He will visit Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. The three-week trip is the first visit by a chairman of the Chinese parliament to member countries of the non-communist grouping. In a rare move, the official New China News Agency (NCNA) yesterday published a personal profile on the 69-year-old leader to coincide with his ASEAN tour. The NPC leader echoed a remark made by patriarch Deng Xiaoping on the importance of the development of democracy in 1979, the NCNA said. Mr Deng had said democracy should develop through the political structure and legal system so that it would not change just because leaders and their views changed.