China May Give Xi Military Post to Endorse Leadership Succession
Oct. 18 (Bloomberg) -- China's Vice President Xi Jinping may be appointed today to help oversee the 2-million-strong armed forces, strengthening his position to be the next leader of the world's most-populous nation.
Xi, 57, is set to become a vice chairman of the ruling Communist Party's Central Military Commission, analysts including Victor Shih said. The title, bestowed upon President Hu Jintao in 1999 when he was vice president, would enable Xi to forge closer ties with the People's Liberation Army ahead of a 2012 party congress that will choose China's new leadership. Hu chairs the military commission.
"It would be very unseemly not to admit Xi into the CMC at this point," said Shih, a professor who teaches Chinese politics and finance at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. "If he is smart, he will keep his head down and defer to Hu."
China's leaders gathered behind closed doors at a Beijing hotel on Oct. 15 for a four-day meeting that will also shape the country's latest five-year economic plan. The 200-plus permanent members of the party's central committee may also have discussed ways to address a gaping wealth gap that the official Xinhua News Agency called a "severe social reality" in its preview of the annual leadership meeting.
Xinhua said the party was likely to endorse Hu's call for an "inclusive growth" model to address inequality. The agency cited the World Bank's finding that the Gini coefficient -- a measure of inequality -- reached 0.47 in 2009, exceeding the 0.4 mark that is a predictor of social unrest.
Xi, the son of a former vice premier, was previously party chief in eastern China's Zhejiang province and in neighboring Shanghai. He was also in charge of organizing the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and last year's celebrations marking 60 years of Communist Party rule. Xi served as Shanghai's Communist Party secretary for a year after the previous incumbent, Chen Liangyu, was fired and later imprisoned for 18 years for corruption.
Xi holds a doctorate in law and a chemical engineering degree from Beijing's Tsinghua University, Hu's alma mater, according to a biography distributed by the official Xinhua News Agency. He is married to a well-known singer.
Chinese scholars refer to Xi as a "princeling" because he's the son of a prominent official. His father, Xi Zhongxun, who died in 2002, was responsible for setting up the Shenzhen special economic zone when he was governor and party chief of southern China's Guangdong Province.
Out of Favor
The elder Xi was a vice premier from 1959-62 before falling out of favor with Chairman Mao Zedong, who established the People's Republic of China in 1949.
The direction of China's political development may also have featured at the Beijing meeting. In the run-up to the plenum, Premier Wen Jiabao called for a relaxation of state control of social and political affairs.
A group of retired officials drawn from the military, state media and academia, last week accused "invisible black hands" of suppressing a speech last month in which Wen called for greater political openness to match economic gains. The open letter by party elders including Li Rui, Mao's former secretary, was published on the Internet Oct. 11.
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