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China VP Xi promoted to key military commission

October 20, 2010

Christopher Bodeen
The Associated Press (AP)
October 19, 2010

BEIJING -- Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping has
been promoted to vice chairman of a key Communist
Party military committee, state media reported
Monday, in the clearest sign yet he is on track
to be the country's future leader.

Party leaders also pledged to make "vigorous yet
steady" efforts to promote political
restructuring, the Xinhua News Agency said,
citing a document issued at Monday's close of an
annual meeting of the ruling party's Central Committee.

No specifics were given, although party leaders
routinely call for administrative refinements to shore up one-party rule.

"Work in improving the CPC ruling capacity and
maintaining the Party's advanced nature should be
strengthened to promote the Party's competence in
leading the country's economic and social
development," Xinhua said, citing the party document.

Xinhua also gave few details about Xi's
appointment to the Central Military Commission
that oversees the 2.3 million-member People's Liberation Army.

Xi, 57, is the party's sixth-ranking leader and
has long been viewed as the anointed successor to
President Hu Jintao, who is expected to step down
as party chief in 2012. Appointment to the
party's military commission, and an identical one
on the government side, has been viewed as a
necessary step in preparing Xi for the top office.

The 11-member commission already has two vice
chairmen and is chaired by Hu, who up to now, had
also been its only civilian member.

In addition to affirming Xi's path to the top,
his appointment bolsters the party's absolute
control over the military in a repudiation of
calls for the PLA to become a national army under
government, not party, leadership.

It also stands as a show of unity among party
leaders amid speculation about possible divisions
over the scope and pace of political reform.
Premier Wen Jiabao has made a number of
statements calling for unspecified changes to the
one-party system, but others in the leadership
have denounced any moves to adopt Western-style democratic institutions.

The Central Committee meeting's formal agenda
wasn't known, although it was expected to discuss
and approve an economic blueprint for the next
five years that aims to narrow the yawning gap
between rich and poor and begin the delicate
preparations for a new generation of leaders.

China's economy has boomed over the past three
decades, but unevenly so, producing hundreds of
millionaires while leaving much of the countryside mired in poverty.

The government has struggled with the issue and
is expected to focus again on ways to improve the
lives of the poor, especially in the
underdeveloped west, in the plan for the 2011-2015 period.

"The period would be critical for building a
moderately prosperous society," Xinhua said in
its report Friday on the start of the meeting.

The new five-year plan is also expected to focus
on green technology and improving China's energy
efficiency, while boosting government services
and making officials more accountable to the public.

Besides the wealth gap, leaders of the 78
million-member party also have to deal with a
public dissatisfied with rising inflation, high
housing prices, employment woes among college
graduates, endemic corruption, while Tibetan and
Muslim regions of western China are held in check
by a smothering security presence.

Abroad, China is facing criticism from the U.S.
for its currency and trade practices and its
support for North Korea and ties with Iran.
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