Beijing: China is set for "sweeping" leadership changes next year as President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao were due to retire, an official media report said without confirming the widely held view that Vice President Xi Jinping would succeed Hu.
"Only the murkiest of crystal balls can`t foresee that only China is certain to have a new President and Premier," state-run Global Times, which is also the official organ of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), reported today.
"The change in leadership in China will be sweeping as seven of the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee will come to the end of their second term or reach retirement age," it said.
Though it is widely expected that Hu, Wen and their generation of leadership would retire after Party Congress this year as they have completed two terms from 2003, this is the first official confirmation of sorts about the leadership of the party, which functions in shroud of secrecy.
The Standing Committee acts much like an inner cabinet of the larger Central Committee of CPC, and is the most powerful decision-making body of the Party. Significantly, the report kept the leadership position of the Party General Secretary open without confirming the widely held view that Xi Jinping would take over from Hu.
"Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang are likely the only two to remain on the Standing Committee," it said.
"The man who emerges as Party General Secretary at next fall`s 18th National Party Congress will then assume the role of President when he is elected to that post at the annual National People`s Congress, which meets in early 2013. The new president will then nominate a new premier at the same NPC," it said.
Xi emerged as the front runner as Hu set the speculation at rest by nominating him to the post of Vice Chairman of the powerful Military Commission. Only the President and person to succeed him were the civilian members of otherwise military dominated commission.
Hu kept everyone guessing as Xi, regarded as the new generation of leaders hailing from family of former CPC leader, has not been nominated to the post until last year.
Vice Premier Li, who was one of the contenders is now expected to take over as Premier from Wen. Incidentally, Premier is ranked third in the CPC leadership hierarchy as the chairman of the National People`s
Congress, the country`s legislature, is placed second, next to
President, who also holds the post of general secretary.
The Chinese leadership changes will also coincide with that of elections for the presidency of US and Russia besides France and Germany next year, the report said.
"While China`s new leaders won`t assume the mantle of their jobs until early 2013, this transition year is surely to be full of interesting developments as President Hu and Premier Wen put their final stamps on their political legacy," it said.
While the Party and the country are just about insisting on an uneventful transition year, the views and media exposure of the next generation of leaders are expected to be more prominent, it said.
While analysts agree that the effects of leadership change will take a while to be felt, the country`s putative leaders are expected to start signalling how they plan to handle a plethora of confounding domestic issues, it said.
The public will scrutinise newspapers and Party announcements for even slight policy shifts on such challenges as the widening income gap, the handling of mass incidents, Internet freedoms, corruption, economic policy and foreign relations.
Some pundits suggest the handling of the protest last month in Wukan in Guangdong Province might already signal a new direction.
The protest, during which residents of Wukan blockaded their fishing village, ended peacefully when Guangdong`s Party Secretary Wang Yang agreed to replace the local authorities and reverse the land deals that provoked the conflict, it said.