China sports minister tipped as next Beijing mayor

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BEIJING, Nov 6 (Reuters) Beijing and Shanghai, China's two most important cities, are tipped to get new mayors, sources with ties to the national leadership said, part of a broader reshuffle that further cements President Hu Jintao's grip on power.

Sports Minister Liu Peng is set to take over from Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan, less than a year before the capital hosts the Olympic Games. Wang is expected to be promoted to vice premier.

Liu is also executive president of Beijing's Organising Committee for the Games (BOCOG) and a Hu ally, having worked in the Communist Youth League that Hu once headed and that is seen as his power base.

Liu, 56, is a native of the southwestern city of Chongqing and began his career as a steel worker.

Wang is a trouble-shooter who became acting mayor of Beijing in 2003 when his predecessor was sacked for mishandling the SARS viral epidemic.

An economist by training and a former vice governor of the People's Bank of China, Wang is likely to be put in charge of the financial sector as vice premier, markets have speculated.

''If that's the case, Mr Wang Qishan is a very capable and good man. He has lots of experience in the financial sector and he's probably the right man to do the job,'' Frank Gong, head of strategy and research at JPMorgan securities in Hong Kong, told reporters in Beijing.

In Shanghai, the nation's financial capital, Mayor Han Zheng is expected to be moved to the poor eastern province of Anhui as Communist Party boss. His replacement is set to be Yuan Chunqing, present governor of Shaanxi province.

Shanghai was former national leader Jiang Zemin's traditional bastion of power, but Yuan, 55, also rose through the Youth League and is seen as close to Hu. The city's new Party boss, Yu Zhengsheng, is not viewed as an insider of either camp.

The latest move in Shanghai completes a leadership overhaul in the city that began when its former Party chief, Chen Liangyu, was sacked last year for his role in a huge corruption scandal that centred on misuse of its social security fund.

The changes in Beijing and Shanghai are part of a series of reshuffles throughout China's provinces following last month's Communist Party Congress, which saw Hu consolidate his power at the helm of a new team of nine on the Politburo Standing Committee that is expected to lead the country until 2012.

Guo Jinlong, the Party boss in Anhui, is set to replace Du Qinglin as head of the southwestern province of Sichuan, where he served in the provincial government in the early 1990s.

Du, a former agriculture minister who has held the Sichuan job for less than a year, is to become head of the United Front Work Department, responsible for winning over non-Communists.

He replaces Liu Yandong, who was promoted to the 25-member Politburo at the close of the Party Congress, becoming its only woman member.

Reuters SS GC1713

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