Xi consolidates hold on Party; Appoints new provincial Chiefs

Less than a week after he took over as new leader of Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping began carrying out reshuffle of provincial Party officials.

Beijing: Less than a week after he took over as the new leader of the ruling Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping began carrying out reshuffle of provincial Party officials, including the Chongqing city headed by disgraced party leader Bo Xilai and country`s biggest city Shanghai.

Xi began the reshuffle with the appointment of former Agricultural Minister Sun Zhengcai, 49 as the new Party Chief of 33 million people strong Chongqing, which acquired notoriety after Bo`s disgraceful exit.

Sun, who has no princeling tag and worked in rural areas, would replace outgoing chief Zhang Dejiang recently promoted to the seven member Politburo Standing Committee headed by Xi, which rules the country.

Sun, a more down to earth activist, was expected to carry out people friendly policies in the city still enamoured by Bo, who despite his despotic style of functioning modernised the city by systematically cracking down on the local mafias.

Bo also cultivated the image of a pro-poor leader playing up on Mao Zedong`s legacy.

In Chinese politics, provincial Chief of the Party wielded enormous amount of power in their respective places as they functioned as political and administrative heads of the area.

Xi also appointed Han Zheng as Chief of Shanghai, which he headed before becoming Vice President.

Han replaces Yu Zhengsheng, who was appointed to the Standing Committee of the Politburo. Born in 1954, Han is currently also mayor of Shanghai.

The new appointments followed as Xi consolidated his hold over the Party after taking over as General Secretary and Military Chief from outgoing leader Hu Jintao.

Xi will formally take over as President in March next year when Hu completely retires along with Premier Wen Jiabao and other leaders.

Two days ago, Xi consolidated his hold on the administration by down grading the post of Internal Security Chief from Standing Committee member to a politburo member.

He appointed Meng Jianzhu, the Minister of Public Security, replacing Zhou Yangkong, the member of the erstwhile Standing Committee who was regarded as supporter of Bo.

Also with a budget of USD 110 billion, internal security portfolio emerged as the most powerful as it had bigger budget than the USD 100 billion defence spending.

Meng functioned under the Standing Committee making him less powerful than his predecessor.

Xi is expected to consolidate his hold on the party further with more appointments in the coming weeks.

He also laid an emphasis on rooting out corruption.

In his speech to 24 members of the Political Bureau, Xi asked Party leaders, especially high-ranking ones, to build a clean government, show self-discipline and restrain their relatives and associates.

"A large number of facts show that corruption could kill the Party and ruin the country, if it were to become increasingly severe, and we must be vigilant," he said.

He asked officials to learn from the experiences of other countries, where "corruption has played a big role in conflicts that grew over lengthy periods, and it has led to popular discontent, social unrest and the overthrow of the political power".

"There have been serious breaches of discipline in the Party in recent years. Some of these cases were very bad, and they have had a terrible, appalling political impact," he said.

Besides Bo, some high-ranking officials have fallen from power in recent years because of corruption including former minister of railways Liu Zhijun and former Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng, state-run China Daily reported.