- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

From combined dispatches

BEIJING President Jiang Zemin and several other leaders are not standing for re-election to an elite Communist Party committee, a delegate to this week's party Congress said yesterday, puncturing speculation that Mr. Jiang will resist plans for him to retire.

Mr. Jiang, as well as No. 2 party boss Li Peng and Prime Minister Zhu Rongji among others, were not on an initial list of candidates for the new Central Committee, which was secretly circulated yesterday, a delegate to the ongoing 16th Party Congress who had seen the list told Agence France-Presse.

"All the major leaders are not on the list, except for Hu Jintao," he said, referring to China's 59-year-old vice president, who is expected to take over from Mr. Jiang as party leader at the Congress.

The comments are the first concrete sign that the party is going ahead with a reshuffle of leaders that had been expected to begin at the weeklong 16th Party Congress. It also appears to show the ruling party is set for a major clearing-out of its elderly leadership.

In all, six of the seven members of China's top governing body, the party's Politburo Standing Committee, were not on the initial list, said the eastern province delegate, who asked not to be named.

"Jiang Zemin, Li Peng, Li Ruihuan, Zhu Rongji, Li Lanqing are not on the list. Wei Jianxing also is not on the list," he said.

"Of the original Politburo members, only 15 are left," he said. The main Politburo currently contains 21 members.

Officially, the Central Committee elects the Politburo, which in turn elects the Politburo Standing Committee, although any leadership changes are assumed to have been worked out by a coterie of leaders long before the Congress.

However cadres who hold top party positions have to first join the Central Committee.

Delegates to the Party Congress, held in the Great Hall of the People in the center of Beijing, retreated yesterday behind closed doors and were to examine the candidate list.

Some delegates said they had not seen the list, while others refused to comment.

"This hasn't gone through a vote in the Congress, so I can't talk about it," said Shanghai Delegate Ling Donglu, head of the Bao Steel company.

The retirement of leaders from their party posts is expected to be followed by a similar reshuffle of state government positions.

Mr. Jiang is expected to also be stepping down as president in favor of Mr. Hu next March at a meeting of China's parliament, with other leaders such as Mr. Zhu and Mr. Li, currently parliamentary head, also giving up their posts.

However, many observers say Mr. Jiang is hoping to exert a great degree of influence over the new leadership if he does retire.

The president has been trying to secure his legacy at the Congress.

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