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Jiang seeks support to promote protégé

BEIJING, China -- Chinese President Jiang Zemin has made a last-minute effort to secure Premier Zhu Rongji's support for the promotion of a key protégé at the upcoming National People's Congress (NPC).

Whether Guangdong province party secretary Li Changchun will be nominated a vice premier at the NPC is a focus of attention at this year's plenary legislative session, which opens on March 5.

An NPC source said Jiang was still engaged in eleventh-hour negotiations with politicians and factions opposed to Li's elevation. At the NPC session last year, Jiang decided not to go through the nomination procedure largely because of Zhu's opposition.

"In return for Zhu's supporting Li's promotion, Jiang has offered to give his blessings to the elevation of a number of officials close to the premier," the source said.

For example, he added, the party secretary of Guangxi province, Cao Bochun, had been mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed Li as Guangdong party chief should the latter get the vice-premiership.

Both Cao and Zhu come from Hunan province. And after a recent tour of Guangxi province, Zhu was said to be impressed by Cao's ability and reformist credentials.

Moreover, Zhu is lobbying for the promotion of proteges such as State Councillor Wu Yi and banking chief Dai Xianglong at the 16th Communist Party Congress next year.

It is understood Jiang and his advisers will wait until later this month to make the final decision on whether to nominate Li at this NPC.

Most personnel changes at the legislative session will involve filling in the empty seats of a few dozen deputies who have fallen into disgrace through corruption and other crimes.

For example, NPC vice chairman Cheng Kejie was late last year executed for corruption. Four deputies from Guangxi Province, where Cheng had been party secretary, also lost their NPC credentials.

The same is true for a number of legislators from the provinces of Fujian, Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Hubei and Hebei, which witnessed major graft cases last year.

Meanwhile, party sources in Beijing said Jiang had tried to boost his authority -- and his say in personnel matters -- at a central-level work meeting convened in Beijing earlier this week.

The top-level conference was attended by Politburo members as well as party secretaries and governors from the provinces.

The official media reported that one conclusion of the meeting was all party cadres and members should "more tightly rally behind the central party leadership with comrade Jiang Zemin as its core."

The party sources said a number of Jiang's Politburo colleagues, including Premier Zhu, Li Ruihuan and Li Peng, had recently expressed views that were not in line with those of Jiang.



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