Jiang Zemin decides to move down in CPC pecking order

Jiang Zemin
A decade after he stepped down as China's top leader, Jiang Zemin has announced his decision to recede into the background underlining "broad-mindedness of a communist" that will allow the new leader Xi Jinping more room to consolidate his authority.

Jiang, 86, former general secretary of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), has asked the CPC Central Committee to group him with other retired comrades in the leadership's protocol order in the future, an official statement said today.

"Jiang made the request after the 18th National Congress of the CPC, which was held in November last year," the statement said, adding that the move reflects "the noble character, sterling integrity and broad-mindedness of a communist".

"The change has been evidenced in an official press release of PLA General Yang Baibing's funeral on Monday, in which Jiang's name appeared after incumbent Standing Committee members of the Political Bureau the CPC Central Committee," the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Yang was a general who was pushed from office after being implicated in efforts to challenge Jiang.

During last November's 18th Party Congress, Jiang is thought to have wielded heavy backstage influence in the once-in-a-decade leadership changes in China which saw 59- year-old Xi, currently China's Vice President becoming the CPC General Secretary.

Jiang sees Xi as an ally, while Hu had won the party's top post even though he was not Jiang's choice.

Jiang was placed third in the rank in a similar mourning announcement, behind Hu Jintao, who had stepped down in November as head of the Communist Party. Xi will also replace Hu as Chinese President in March.

The seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, which sits at the apex of party power, is now reportedly dominated by proteges and allies of Jiang.

Jiang retired as party general secretary in November 2002, and stepped down from his final major post, chairman of the Central Military Commission, nearly two year later.

Since then he has used public appearances, books, poems, essays and calligraphy inscriptions as reminders that he remained healthy and engaged enough to exert influence, said analysts.

Jiang's concession regarding protocol appeared calculated to signal that he is ready to step away from the political fray, but in a way that does not exclude renewed efforts to exert influence, New York Times quoted Joseph Fewsmith, a specialist in Chinese politics at Boston University as saying.

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