A story circulated a few weeks ago that former president Jiang Zemin had tendered his resignation to the Communist Party Central Committee, asking to be relieved from his last remaining post - chairman of the Central Military Committee. In the letter, it was claimed, he cited old age and failing health for his decision. Party chief Hu Jintao duly put the matter to the standing committee which, by unanimous vote, turned it down on the grounds that Mr Jiang's wisdom and service were indispensable for the nation. Some party elders, unhappy that Mr Jiang continued hanging on to power, have suggested he should relinquish all his official posts. Mr Jiang may have used the resignation ploy to strengthen his legitimacy as well as test the loyalty of Mr Hu, who is said to be eager to assume full control as the supremo of the party, the state and the military. It made interesting grist for the rumour mill, but it could not be proved or disproved either way. Then, on September 4, the website of the People's Daily inadvertently added a footnote to this speculation. The column 'On this day in history' noted that 14 years ago, Deng Xiaoping resigned from his post as chairman of the Central Military Committee. The item was removed from the website a few hours later. In his resignation letter to the Central Committee, Deng wrote that as far back as 1980 he had advocated abolishing life tenure for top cadres. With Mr Jiang assuming leadership of the party in June 1989, it was time for Deng to practice what he had preached by handing over his military post. His resignation was accepted in October that year, and Jiang became head of the military commission. When Deng decided to quit, the Chinese government was under intense international pressure in the aftermath of the Tiananmen massacre. It could be persuasively argued that China needed his wisdom and experience. But Deng was a man of his word. Once his mind was made up, no one could hold him back. If Mr Jiang had wanted to quit his military post, who could stop him? The posting - and hasty removal - of the reference to Deng's resignation revealed more than the authorities cared to let the public know.