Last week, the mainland leadership finally ended months of speculation over the opening date of the Communist Party's 17th congress, settling on October 15. Because it said preparations went smoothly, many overseas media and analysts have taken this as a signal that consensus has been reached over the leadership which will emerge at the end of the congress to lead the country until 2012. This has, in turn, spawned another round of intense speculation over the new lineup, including the members of the Politburo and, more importantly, the Politburo Standing Committee - the party's highest decision-making body. But the word from the corridors of power in Beijing is that the new lineup has yet to be finalised, that jockeying for power is still in full swing and will remain so until the party leadership holds one final plenary session of the Central Committee before the congress on October 9. The speculation has focused on whether Standing Committee membership will be cut to seven from nine and which officials are likely to become new committee members. Analysts have argued that if the number is reduced to seven, it could be seen as a victory for President Hu Jintao . At the 16th congress, held in 2002, the Standing Committee was expanded from seven to nine in what was widely seen as a move by former president Jiang Zemin to install more allies on the committee before he stepped down as the party's general secretary to make way for Mr Hu. By cutting the number to seven, Mr Hu can force out Mr Jiang's supporters and have a smaller team to ease the decision-making process. The speculation about the likely composition of the new leadership's inner circle is more complex, with many senior officials mentioned as possible candidates. But many analysts have agreed that those with a stronger chance are Zhang Dejiang , Guangdong party secretary; Yu Zhengsheng , Hubei party secretary; Li Keqiang , Liaoning party secretary, and Zhou Yongkang , the Minister of Public Security. Some overseas media recently added two new names to the list of possibilities: Wang Gang , director of the General Office of the party's Central Committee, and Wang Zhaoguo , a deputy chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) and a former boss of Mr Hu. However, the consensus is that the chances of the two Wangs are very low. Wang Gang, 65, is expected to step down soon as the director of the general office and is mostly likely to be replaced by Ling Jihua, 50, one of Mr Hu's most trusted aides. Wang Gang is likely to be appointed to a largely ceremonial job at the NPC or the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Elevation of Wang Zhaoguo is also unlikely, despite the fact that he came from the Communist Youth League, Mr Hu's power base, and was once Mr Hu's direct superior. But he is already 66 years old and his rise would go against the party's consensus of promoting younger officials in their late 50s and early 60s. While discussing the possible candidates for the Standing Committee, overseas media appear to have discounted the chances of Li Yuanchao , Jiangsu party secretary, and Xi Jinping , Shanghai party secretary. This could be a mistake. Li Yuanchao, 57, has been ruled out largely because of a belief that Mr Hu favours Li Keqiang as his successor in 2012 when he steps down. Mr Xi, 54, has been ruled out because of the view that he was just appointed Shanghai's party secretary in March and it is unlikely the mainland leadership would move him to Beijing so soon. As a result, analysts have suggested that Mr Li and Mr Xi look certain to become Politburo members instead of members of the more powerful Politburo Standing Committee. But both of them should be seen as dark-horse candidates for the Standing Committee. This is particularly so for Mr Xi, who boasts an impeccable political pedigree - his late father Xi Zhongxun was a party elder. The younger Xi, known for his pro-business outlook, would be an ideal candidate acceptable to the competing factions within the party. In addition to his connections, Mr Xi also boasts keen political sensitivities. Many party members were impressed to hear that one of Mr Xi's first few public appearances as Shanghai party secretary was to pay homage to the museum on the site where the party's first congress was held. This was a clear reminder to many that one of Mr Hu's first few public appearances as party general secretary was to pay homage to the museum honouring the party headquarters in Xibaipo, Hebei province , from where Mao Zedong led the troops into Beijing and founded the People's Republic of China. Both visits were clearly and cleverly choreographed to show allegiance to the rule of the party and went down well within the party.