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Party shakeup in China

Beijing, Oct. 22 (Reuters): The Communist Party bosses of Beijing and Shanghai have stepped down to take central government posts in the most high profile personnel changes so far in a sweeping leadership shakeup, Chinese officials said today.

They did not say what jobs Beijing party boss Jia Qinglin and Shanghai’s Huang Ju — both in the party’s 21-man Politburo — would take, but analysts said they were among candidates for promotion at a party congress next month.

The political chiefs of China’s capital and financial centre have close personal ties to President and party head Jiang Zemin, who is expected to retire with other leaders over 70 at the five-yearly congress starting on November 8.

Huang, in particular, could be in line for a place on the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee, analysts said. But Jia’s prospects could be limited by a corruption scandal when he was party chief in the eastern province of Fujian.

“With Huang, he is probably going on to something more senior,” said one Western diplomat. “Maybe he fills that last spot on the standing committee.”

“Jia is a little harder given his recent troubles. Jiang puts a lot of faith in him but it may be a horizontal move.”

Jiang has been angling to maintain his political influence by installing allies and proteges in the standing committee, or by keeping his third post as head of the Central Military Commission, analysts say.

News of Huang’s departure came as a surprise to some in Shanghai, where he has been party chief since 1994 and was mayor before that.

Shanghai has long been regarded as a stepping stone to the top echelons of the party — Jiang and Premier Zhu Rongji all jumped the queue after proving themselves in top Shanghai posts.

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