Jiang puts his men in place

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Jiang Zemin has moved to consolidate his position as heir apparent to Deng Xiaoping by promoting allies to key posts in the Chinese Communist Party.

The party leadership sought to assure the outside world this week that the death of Mr Deng, the architect of China's reform process, will not lead to a succession battle. The party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, said yesterday: 'What is imbued with deep and far-reaching meaning is that our party has already victoriously completed the transfer from the second generation of central leadership collective to the third.'

Rumours are rife about Mr Deng's health and all will be watching to see if he is at tonight's 45th anniversary celebrations for the People's Republic.

Mr Deng, 90, leads the 'second generation' of elders who have resigned their official positions but still wield enormous power. The 'third generation' is led by Mr Deng's designated successor, Mr Jiang, who also heads the party and the armed forces.

Mr Jiang, regarded by many analysts as lacking staying-power, has spent the past two years shoring up his power base, especially in the army. This week's personnel changes bolster his position within the party apparatus by strengthening the so-called 'Shanghai clique'.

The President is a former mayor of Shanghai, as is Zhu Rongji, the vice prime minister in charge of the economy. The Mayor of Shanghai, Huang Ju, was promoted to be the city's party chief and joins the Politburo. The former party chief in Shanghai, Wu Bangguo, joins the Central Committee's secretariat, as does the party boss of Shandong province, Jiang Chunyun. All are close to Mr Jiang.

David Shambaugh, a specialist in Chinese politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, said Mr Jiang's agenda now seemed to be to look at party support.

At issue is whether Mr Jiang's support will be enduring. 'I see this as a quite cohesive elite at the moment. If Deng dies tomorrow, I do not forsee any midnight arrests or purges,' Dr Shambaugh said. 'It is going to be a smooth successsion. These leaders are in place and they are moving to consolidate (their position) . . . It's a question of what happens six months to a year afterwards.'