Long retired, China's Jiang Zemin asserts sway over top posts

Jiang Zemin

By EDWARD WONG

In a year of scandals and corruption charges at the commanding heights of the Communist Party, a retired party chief some had written off as a spent force has thrust himself back into China's most important political decisions and emerged as a dominant figure shaping the future leadership.

The resurgence of Jiang Zemin, the 86-year-old former leader, is all the more striking because he was said last year to be near death. But over recent months, Jiang, who left office a decade ago, has worked assiduously behind the scenes, voicing frustration with the record of his successor, Hu Jintao, and maneuvoering to have his protégés dominate the party's incoming ruling group. He even weighed in on how to deal with Bo Xilai, the populist political figure caught in a major scandal and investigated after his wife was accused of murdering a British businessman.

Jiang has also sought to shape policy, party insiders say, by proposing changes to an agenda-setting report presented Thursday at the start of the 18th Party Congress, the weeklong meeting that precedes naming of Hu's replacement and a new generation of leaders. Jiang and Hu arrived together at the Great Hall of the People, before others in the senior leadership —another sign of Jiang's influence.

Jiang's goal, insiders say, is to put China back on a path toward market-oriented economic policies that he and his allies argue stagnated under a decade of cautious leadership by Hu.

Many see Jiang, who brought China into the World Trade Organization and rebuilt ties to the United States after a breakdown in 1989, as favouring deeper ties with the West and more opportunities for China's private sector.

'No proof killed Briton was a spy, says VP

BEIJING: Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang on Thursday said there was no evidence the British businessman, whose murder became part of a major political scandal, was a spy. He also told reporters that he had no information about when Bo Xilai, would go on trial. AP

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