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Power list for the eyes of the elite only

Beijing, Nov. 11 (Reuters): After months of furtive jockeying for position, China’s Communist Party elite was shown a list of candidates today for a new generation of leaders expected to take over from President Jiang Zemin and others this week.

But delegates at the 16th Party Congress refused to give details of nominees for the Central Committee, reinforcing the secrecy around a sweeping leadership change which party sources say will leave ultimate power still in Jiang’s hands.

Conflicting rumours flew about the new Politburo Standing Committee, the pinnacle of power, whether it would be expanded, how many allies Jiang could place on it and whether he would keep one of his three posts.

The five-yearly congress, which opened on Friday, was supposed to mark the first orderly succession in the history of Communist China, but the continuing uncertainty shows how its political system remains entirely opaque and unpredictable.

“We will now study the list,” said one delegate from the central province of Hubei, who declined to be identified.

Although never officially announced, Vice-President Hu Jintao, 59, is expected to take over as party chief on Friday after leaders over 70, including parliament chief Li Peng and Premier Zhu Rongji, quit party posts, Chinese sources say.

Jiang has secured promotion of at least four key allies, including his main protege, Zeng Qinghong, to the new Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top decision-making body which now has seven seats, they say.

Beyond that, there is still a range of possibilities — including expanding the Standing Committee to nine people and Jiang keeping his third post as head of the military, they say.

“There are so many different versions of the new leadership flying around,” said one Western diplomat. “It’s impossible to predict — except that Jiang will have his cronies in there.”

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