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Hu Jintao takes over PLA's reins

By Anil K Joseph in Beijing
September 19, 2004 18:58 IST
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Chinese military helmsman Jiang Zemin has resigned, handing reins of the world's largest standing army to President Hu Jintao in an orderly way, completing the Communist giant's leadership transition which began in 2002.

The four-day plenum of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), which concluded here today, approved Hu to take over the Chairmanship of the Central Military Commission (CMC) after accepting Jiang's resignation, a terse announcement carried by the official Xinhua news agency said.

No reason was cited for Jiang's resignation as the CMC Chairman, the powerful post which allowed the 78-year-old technocrat-turned politician control the 2.5 million-strong People's Liberation Army (PLA), a leading player in China's closed political system.

Jiang, a former Shanghai mayor, was selected by then supreme leader Deng Xiaoping to lead the party in 1989 after Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests and an internal power struggle threatened to wreck it apart.

After holding two consecutive terms as Chinese president, Jiang stepped down in favour of Hu, 61, in 2003. Prior to that, Jiang had quit as Secretary General of the Communist Party in 2002 to make way for a new generation of leaders led by Hu.

However, Jiang held on to the Chairmanship of the Central Military Commission, the most powerful body which gave him big clout in areas such as security and foreign policy.

"The plenum unanimously agreed that this (Hu's becoming CMC Chairman) is conducive to upholding the
fundamental principle and system of the Party's absolute leadership over the military, and is also conducive to the strengthening of the military's revolutionisation, modernisation and regularisation process," said a communique released after the closing of the plenum.

The communique also noted that the plenum had 'highly evaluated Comrade Jiang Zemin's outstanding contributions to the Party, the state and the people'.

Jiang could have continued in his post till 2007. However, that could have impaired the working of the Chinese government as well as the military with a new younger generation of Communist Party leadership under Hu, who took control of the party and government in 2002 and 2003 respectively, analysts noted.

Jiang, after serving as the CPC Central Committee General Secretary for 13 years, bowed out of the Party Central Committee at the 16th CPC National Congress held here in 2002.

Sources said there was a lot of pressure within the Central Committee on Jiang to retire, following in the
footsteps of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who resigned as chairman of the CMC in 1989 in favour of Jiang.

However, the aging leader ensured that his legacy in Chinese politics will be remembered by securing a pledge that his famous Three Represents thought will be elevated to those of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping's theories of Communism.

The plenum also approved Xu Caihou, 61, as the CMC Vice-Chairman and inducted four new members -- Chen Bingde, Qiao Qingchen, Zhang Dingfa and Jing Zhiyuan -- as members of the CMC of the party.

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Anil K Joseph in Beijing
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