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China Party votes for fresh leadership lineup

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, Oct 21 (Reuters) China's Communist Party closes a five-yearly Congress today that will acclaim President Hu Jintao's policies and start to install a new leadership crucial to shaping his legacy.

After a week of rhetorical displays of unity around Hu, the Congress seems sure to approve his ''state of the nation'' work report and write his slogan of a ''scientific outlook on development'' into the Party charter.

But while the 2,213 carefully vetted delegates have applauded Hu's vows to weave economic growth with environmental and welfare improvement in his next and probably last five years in office, silence has surrounded appointments to the inner sanctum where real power lies.

Delegates in the Great Hall of the People started voting in a new Central Committee, a ruling council with 200 or so full members, having already cut out 8 percent of candidates in a preliminary vote the day before.

The Committee will in turn appoint a Politburo of a few dozen members and a Politburo Standing Committee, the innermost ring of power with possibly nine members, which will be revealed tomorrow.

The Great Hall was cut off from usual weekend traffic in the autumn sunshine and all approaching vehicles were made to pass over scanners. Tiananmen Square and surrounding streets were alive with police vans and security men, some uniformed and some in plain clothes.

More than slogans, the membership of the elite bodies will tell how much power Hu wields and how he intends to use it, and who Hu's potential successors and rivals are.

Signs suggest Hu will emerge from the meeting stronger, but he will still be careful to cultivate ties with officials across different regions and constituencies.

''Hu has the power; it's now up to him to decide how he wants to use it and what he wants to do,'' said Li Datong, a former editor at a Party newspaper who now publishes political analyses.

''But Hu won't be adventurous. That's not in his nature, and the Party and country have already formed interest groups that any leader would find it very difficult to move.'' NEW CHALLENGES Hu promised a ''harmonious society'' cleansed of conflict and a ''scientific outlook of development'' aiming to divert more prosperity to backward villages and poor workers and to cleaning up fouled skies and waterways.

Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, took 13 years before he was able to push his trademark notions into the Party charter shortly before his retirement in 2002.

That Hu has now been able to do the same with many years still in office shows his growing clout, said analysts.

But much will hang on who leaves and who joins the powerful Standing Committee.

Vice President Zeng Qinghong, a powerful Party organisation chief who was long close to Jiang, is widely expected to retire from the Standing Committee, giving Hu greater scope to use proteges.

Li Keqiang, Party boss of the northeastern industrial province of Liaoning, is a front-runner for promotion who worked under Hu in the Communist Youth League.

But the new inner core is also likely to include Shanghai Party boss Xi Jinping and other, younger faces who do not necessarily have longstanding ties with Hu.


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