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Who Will Emerge As China’s Leader?

Thu., Feb. 20, 1997

Who is likely to succeed Deng Xiaoping?

Deng has selected a kind of ruling triumvirate to succeed him - party boss Jiang Zemin, Premier Li Peng and economic czar Zhu Rongji. They will now begin to jockey even more for the limelight and the leadership.

Here are short profiles of possible successors:

Jiang Zemin, 70, Communist Party chief, president and head of the military. Former mayor of Shanghai; handpicked by Deng in 1989 to succeed him as paramount leader. Lacking Deng’s charisma and broad power base, Jiang is known as a political moderate, an able administrator, but not a visionary leader. He reportedly suffers from high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as an abnormal heart beat. For the moment, Jiang appears to have consolidated his position as Deng’s successor. But his political health may be better short term than long.

Li Peng, 69, premier. A Soviet-trained hydroelectric engineer aligned with conservative hard-liners in Beijing. Often considered Jiang’s chief rival, though Li’s health is also declining. He ordered the imposition of martial law to counter student democracy demonstrations leading up to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

Li Ruihuan, in his mid-60s, chief of ideology for the Communist Party. Member of the standing committee of the Politburo. A former construction worker and former mayor of the industrial city of Tianjin, near Beijing. Beset with medical problems.

Zhu Rongji, near 70, director of the State Council Economic and Trade office. Former mayor of Shanghai. Trained as an electrical engineer, joined the Communist Party in 1949, the year the People’s Republic was founded, and rose through the party ranks to take successive planning jobs in economic policy and industrial production. Described in party literature as a “man of resolve and keen intellect.”

Qiao Shi, also in his mid-60s, viceminister of the State Council. Has risen through the political ranks of the Communist Party, which he joined at age 16. Helped form Communist Party underground in post-war Shanghai.

Hu Jintao, only in his mid-50s. A possible dark horse. The promising, youngest member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the main power base within the Communist Party. Jiang is thought by some likely to remain on the scene only long enough for Hu to complete his training. He has risen rapidly and most recently was party secretary for Tibet.


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