INTERNATIONAL

Hu to lead party Congress

Hu Jintao

Hu Jintao  

SINGAPORE NOV. 7. The Communist Party of China (CPC) on Thursday announced that the country's Vice-President, Hu Jintao, would officiate as the Secretary-General of the party's 16th National Congress, which is slated to begin in Beijing on Friday. The Congress will last till Nov. 14.

The "election" of Mr. Hu as the Secretary-General of the Congress, a position that should not be confused with the status of the party's chief, has intensified the speculation in international circles that he might, in the end, emerge as the new leader of China. However, Mr. Hu's appointment to the supervisory post, which he is no stranger to, cannot be taken as a clear hint of his possible elevation to the highest party position.

Authoritative Chinese sources told The Hindu here on Thursday that a leadership change at the highest echelons of the CPC was likely at the party's National Congress. However, the possibility of new ideas coming from a new leadership should not be mistaken at this stage as the sign of a shift in the political direction of the CPC.

The political interactions within the framework of the party Congress have yet to take place. This reality tempers the significance of Thursday's developments concerning Mr. Hu.

Announcing the events on the party's calendar this month, Ji Bingxuan, spokesman for the 16th Congress, said in Beijing on Thursday that "a new term of CPC Central leadership would be elected" at the first plenum of the Central Committee following the conclusion of the Congress. Mr. Ji was quoted by China's official Xinhua news agency as having said that all "preparatory work" for the Congress had been completed.

A preparatory meeting, held in Beijing on Thursday, set the agenda for the Congress and "elected a 236-member Presidium of the Congress". It was at this meeting that Mr. Hu was "elected" as Secretary-General of the Congress.

In international circles, Mr. Hu is regarded as the man likely to succeed China's President and CPC leader, Jiang Zemin, at an appropriate time after the conclusion of the party Congress.

The Congress, according to the spokesman, is expected to make "strategic arrangements for the overall advancement of China's reform and opening up (processes) and socialist modernisation drive".

AP reports:

Awash in communist red, China's increasingly Westernised capital mobilised on Thursday for the Congress, deploying banners and palm fronds on Tiananmen Square and tightening security as a nation in transition prepared itself for a new generation of leaders.

``Beijing has got everything ready,'' the official Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said. ``The capital at night looks resplendent, lustrous and brilliant everywhere.''

But even as Government-controlled media touted China's dynamic progress, the Congress remained veiled in secrecy and calls for reform echoed from inside and outside the country.

As the Congress begins, China finds itself in the throes of a systemic transition from a planned communist economy to a profit-driven one, the extension of reforms introduced two decades ago.

China has also made a point of inviting foreign reporters to cover the Congress.

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