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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

China promotes likely Hu successor to key position

October 25, 2010

Keith B. Richburg
The Washington Post
October 19, 2010

BEIJING -- China's Communist Party Central
Committee ended its annual meeting Monday by
elevating Vice President Xi Jinping to a vice
chairmanship of the powerful Central Military
Commission, apparently cementing his role as the
country's next president and demonstrating that
the closely guarded succession process remains on track.

At the same time, the conference ended with only
the vaguest mention of political reform, largely
ignoring a recent small but growing clamor for
more freedom and less news media censorship
coming from a group of a dozen party elders, a
hundred human rights activists and dissidents,
newspapers, and even Prime Minister Wen Jiabao,
who vowed this month to push for reform "until the last day of my life."

A statement issued after the conference said
"vigorous yet steady efforts should be made to
promote political restructuring," according to
the state-run Xinhua News Agency, but the statement gave no further details.

Xi, who is from Shaanxi province and has held top
party jobs in Fujian province and briefly in
Shanghai, was long assumed to be the successor to
President Hu Jintao. Hu will step down as
Communist Party leader in 2012 and as president the following year.

But there was speculation that rivals were still
vying for the post, particularly after Xi did not
win the coveted assignment to the military
commission after last year's Central Committee
meeting. Hu won a vice chairmanship of the
military commission three years before he took
full control in China, and it was thought that
Xi, as Hu's annointed successor, would follow the same path.

Xi's promotion to the military commission ended
for now speculation about a power struggle. The
move was seen here as the critical last step for
Xi because China's party - not its government -
controls the 2.3 million-member People's Liberation Army.

Xi's elevation marks the rise of China's
"princelings," the children of top party elders
who are now moving to the forefront of the
leadership. His father, Xi Zhongxun, was one of
China's first-generation revolutionary leaders
and an early advocate for market reforms, perhaps
best known for presiding over the birth of the
now-prosperous Shenzhen special economic zone. Xi
Zhongxun also had a close relationship with
senior Tibetan religious figures such as the
Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama during the early
1950s, before the Dalai Lama fled China in 1959.

The princelings as a group are thought to be more
attuned to the needs of modern China's new
business entrepreneurs, its burgeoning middle
class and the prosperous coastal areas, including
Guangdong province and Shanghai. In that way,
they differ from the current leader, Hu, who has
tried to tune his political antenna to the rural
areas and problems of income disparities.

"Xi Jinping has a lot of friends in the private
sector," said Cheng Li, research director of the
John L. Thorton China Center at the Brookings
Institution, who has extensively studied China's
leadership. "He is known more for his
market-friendly approach in Fujian and Shanghai
and not for anything on political reform."

Xi also has a reputation as a blunt speaker.
During a February 2009 stop in Mexico, he told an
audience of overseas Chinese that foreigners
"with full stomachs" shouldn't interfere in
China's internal affairs, saying that "China
doesn't export hunger and poverty."

Unlike the low-key Hu, "Xi Jinping likes to
comment and sometimes offend people," Li said.

Another difference is that for the first time
since the days of Chairman Mao Zedong's wife,
Jiang Qing, China will have a first lady who is
well known. The wives of Deng Xiaoping, Jiang
Zemin and Hu were rarely seen in public. But Xi
is married to Peng Liyuan, a star singer for the
People's Liberation Army since she was in her
late teens. Indeed, for most of Xi's career,
Peng, who routinely performs in front of hundreds
of millions of Chinese viewers during the annual
Spring Festival television show, has been far more famous than her husband.

Staff writer John Pomfret contributed to this report.
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