China's Hu promotes close ally, bolsters position

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BEIJING, Sep 19 (Reuters) Chinese President Hu Jintao has promoted one of his closest aides to a key post in another sign of his growing political clout ahead of next month's landmark Communist Party congress.

Ling Jihua, 50, deputy director of the General Office of the Party Central Committee, was named its director, replacing Wang Gang, 64, the official Xinhua news agency said, confirming an August. 31 Reuters exclusive report.

The general office is the Party's nerve centre, handling classified documents and administrative and logistical affairs for the 23-member, decision-making Politburo.

Previous directors include Wen Jiabao who is now premier, and Zeng Qinghong, the incumbent vice president.

If their career paths are anything to go by, Ling could become an alternate member of the Politburo at the five-yearly Party Congress opening on October. 15.

Last month, another Hu ally, Meng Xuenong, 58, made a political comeback four years after being sacked as Beijing mayor during the 2003 SARS crisis. Meng was named acting governor and deputy Party boss of the coal-rich northern province of Shanxi.

Analysts said the personnel changes meant more emphasis on Hu's policy of ''scientific concept of development'' to correct China's path from that of the previous administration, which featured breakneck growth at the expense of the environment.

State media have said Hu's political doctrine will be enshrined in the Party constitution during the Congress. The move will allow him to take his place alongside Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in the pantheon of Chinese Communist greats.

REUTERS SG PM1528

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