By Benjamin Kang Lim

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BEIJING, Oct 22 (Reuters) China's Communist Party today endorsed a new inner sanctum of power including four born after the 1949 revolution and a record number of the ''princeling'' offspring of the country's political elite.

The Party's elite 204-member Central Committee elected a new 25-member decision-making Politburo at a one-day plenum following the Party's five-yearly Congress at which President Hu Jintao firmed his grip on power.

Hu has promised a ''harmonious society'' that values equality, but to a striking degree, he has turned to sons and daughters raised behind secretive walls of Party privilege to get the job done.

The Politburo has 15 holdovers and 10 newcomers. Their average age is 61.4, compared with 60.4 at the previous Congress in 2002. It was unclear who, if anyone, was voted out.

But four men were born after the 1949 revolution.

Li Keqiang, party boss of the northeastern province of Liaoning, and Wang Yang, party boss of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, were the youngest at 52. The youngest in 2002 was 55.

Both men cut their teeth in the Communist Youth League, President Hu's power base.

The oldest was Jia Qinglin, 67, head of the top advisory body to parliament and composed mainly of non-Communists.

The 2.5 million-strong People's Liberation Army retained its two seats. General Guo Boxiong stayed on, while General Xu Caihou replaced Cao Gangchuan, 71, who retired.

Liu Yandong, 61, minister of the party's United Front Work Department which is responsible for winning over non-Communists, became China's most powerful woman following the retirement of ''Iron Lady'' Wu Yi from the party's decision-making body.

Liu is a political ally of President Hu. Her father is former agriculture vice minister Liu Ruilong, making her a princeling.

Princelings were one of the biggest winners of the Congress with seven in the Politburo compared with three in 2002.

Other princeling Politburo members include: * Shanghai party boss Xi Jinping, 54, who also joined the top echelon of power, the nine-seat Politburo Standing Committee. Xi is a son of late reformist Xi Zhongxun, architect of China's special economic zones that kickstarted landmark, market-opening reforms.

* The country's top cop, Zhou Yongkang, 64, who is set to replace Luo Gan in the Standing Committee as security tsar. His father is a former vice commissar of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence.

* Flamboyant Commerce Minister Bo Xilai, 58, who is designated to become party boss of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing. His late father, vice premier Bo Yibo, was instrumental in his rise.

* Another Hu ally, Li Yuanchao, 56, party boss of the eastern province of Jiangsu, is one of the newcomers. His father, Li Gancheng, is a former Shanghai vice-mayor.

* Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan, 59, who steered the capital through the 2003 SARS outbreak and the southern province of Guangdong through a financial crisis. He is a son-in-law of late vice premier Yao Yilin.

* Hubei provincial party boss Yu Zhengsheng, 62, who is the front-runner to become the new Shanghai party boss. Yu's rise had been delayed by the defection to the United States of his brother, a senior intelligence official, in 1985.

Yu's father was the first party boss of the northern port city of Tianjin after the 1949 revolution. He was also a husband of Jiang Qing, who later married Chairman Mao Zedong.

Li Keqiang, however, was the son of a low-ranking official in rural Anhui province in the country's east.

REUTERS SG HT1445

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