- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2003

BEIJING, March 16 (UPI) — Chinese citizens were keeping up Sunday with an avalanche of new officials announced by the National People's Congress which Saturday elected Communist Party leader Hu Jintao as president but kept his predecessor Jiang Zemin as head of the military.

Hu, 60, the only candidate for the post, had served as vice president since 1998. Of the nearly 3,000 NPC delegates, only four voted against Hu, China's Xinhua news agency said. Many other party and government posts were filled at the Congress.

Hu, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee but virtually unknown outside China, now heads a country with a population of about 1.3 billion.

Jiang, 76, stepped down after serving the maximum of two five-year terms, but was re-elected chairman of the Central Military Commission, China's top military post.

Hu became a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee last November, during the Party's 16th National Congress.

The plenary session also elected Zeng Qinghong vice president of the People's Republic of China and Wu Bangguo as chairman of the Party's Standing Committee. Zeng would become president should Hu's post become open for any reason.

Although the process of choosing a new head of state was conducted without turmoil, something not necessarily taken for granted in China's relatively recent history, it remains to be seen to what extent Hu can assume control of the many government posts left in the hands of Jiang appointees.

Xinhua reported that Hu, accompanied by the other top leaders of the Central Committee, immediately toured Xibaipo, described as the sacred land of the Chinese revolution in northern Hebei province.

It was from that place that the then Central Committee left for Beijing on March 23, 1949, to establish state power, a date described by Mao Zedong as the "day to take an exam in Beijing."

Hu's speech at Xibaipo called on the whole Party to review Mao's important remarks on the eve of the founding of New China and "bear deeply in mind the great trust by the Party and people as well as the historical mission they shoulder," Xinhua reported.

Vice President Zeng became one of the nine members of the Political Bureau Standing Committee at the First Plenum of the 16th CPC Central Committee in November.

Zeng stressed repeatedly that leading cadres at all levels should take the lead in holding high the great banner of Deng Xiaoping Theory and to fight corruption within government.

A native of Ji'an, in Jiangxi Province in east China, Zeng was born in July 1939, and joined the CPC in 1960. After graduation from the Beijing Institute of Technology in 1963, Zeng took a technician's job first in the No. 743 Army Unit of the People's Liberation Army and then gained work experience at the grass roots level in the Seventh Ministry of Machine-Building Industry.

Jiang, Xinhua reported, was relieved of his official duty as general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee he had held for 13 years and bowed out of the Central Committee in November of last year.

He went on to willingly relinquish his state presidency he had held for 10 years at the current session.

Jiang, the state news agency said, offered to leave his post as general secretary of the Party Central Committee and membership of the Party Central Committee as well to make way for younger people to accelerate the pace of generational transition of the high-level leadership of the Party and the state for the sake of long-term development, peace and stability.

The news service said Jiang's offer demonstrated his foresight for the development of the cause of the Party and the state and as a "Marxist statesman."

The news service said the Party's Central Committee and the state "owe their smooth top leadership transition to his correct leadership" while the transfer of power "is widely held as a hallmark of the sophistication of this world's largest ruling party that has a history of 81 years."

Jiang stayed on as the top military leader "in view of the complex and changing international situation and the arduous tasks for the building of China's national defense and the army," Xinhua said.

Jiang pledged, the report said, full support for the work of the new collective leadership of the Central Committee with Hu Jintao as the general secretary.

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