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Jiang ends leadership transition

From CNN's Beijing's Bureau Chief Jaime Florcruz

Jiang, left, with his successor Hu.
Jiang Zemin
Hu Jintao

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Communist veteran Jiang Zemin has bowed out as China's top military leader, 15 years after he took up the post, completing the first smooth transition of leadership since 1949.

"Hu Jintao succeeded Jiang Zemin as chairman of the Central Military Commission at the Fourth Plenum of the central committee, which just concluded here Sunday," the official announcement said.

Jiang's retirement makes 61-year-old Hu Jintao the country's undisputed leader, commanding over the party, the state and the armed forces.

Hu Jintao and his allies are expected to continue most of 78-year-old Jiang's policies, with subtle differences in styles and emphasis.

"They've clearly shown a greater care for the common people, for the increased social stratification in the country, those that have been left behind in the reforms," David Shambaugh, of George Washington University, told CNN.

"This is their agenda -- the countryside, the unemployed, and those who have not advanced as quickly as others."

As China's paramount leader for 13 years, Jiang -- the mayor of Shanghai -- put more emphasis on economic growth, especially in big cities along the coastal regions, earning him high regards among international leaders.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo: (13:45:47) "He was the one who turned China into a market economy," Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo says.

"He was the leader of China during a period when it was achieving double-digit growth rates, which continues its momentum now even under President Hu."

During Jiang's tenure, China joined the World Trade Organization and Beijing won its bid to host the 2008 Olympics.

And China and the U.S. enjoyed their best relations in many years, earning Jiang a rare invitation to a personal tour of President Bush's Crawford ranch.

Even in retirement, however, analysts say Jiang will probably continue to wield influence behind the scenes. At least five of the nine members of China's highest decision-making body are Jiang's close allies.

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