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China's 'princelings' emerge as rising political stars

2012/03/31 22:32:11

Taipei, March 31 (CNA) One of the mysteries political observers of China will have to decipher as the country undergoes a leadership transition this year is the role the country's "princelings" will play in the battle for power.

Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to lead the pack of "princelings" -- sons or daughters of top party officials -- into power at the Communist Party's 18th National Congress this fall as General Secretary Hu Jintao and premier and Politburo standing member Wen Jiabao prepare to step down.

The party congress will choose members of the Politburo who will form the core of the ruling clique, and a power struggle has already begun ahead of the meeting with the ouster of Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, a princeling himself, political pundits said.

The choice of Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, linked to former President Jiang Zemin, to take Bo's place in Chongqing was the result of concessions and compromises between prominent factions separately led by Hu and Jiang, whose influence remains huge given Zhang's appointment, they said.

While such inter-faction concessions may ultimately determine the lineup of the next set of leaders, political experts believe "princelings" are a force that cannot be ignored.

Many of them have already risen to prominence, holding nine of the 25 seats in the party's Politburo.

Of China's four vice premiers, Zhang and Wang Qishan, who presides over financial affairs, are descendants of senior party officials.

Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, and China's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi, are also counted among the princelings.

They are also considered to be forces to be reckoned with in the military, with Liu Yuan, son of former president Liu Shaoqi, having been promoted to general.

Princelings even extend their tentacles into business circles. Jiang Mianheng, Jiang Zemin's son, is known as China's telecom tycoon, while Zhu Yunlai, son of former Premier Zhu Rongji, heads China International Capital Corporation.

Observers are uncertain, however, over whether these princelings, with their far-flung reach into politics, the military and business, will develop into a cohesive force.

Chen Hua-sheng, a research fellow with Taiwan's National Policy Foundation, doubted they will be able to manifest their strength as a group immediately after Xi takes power because the influence of factions across China runs deep.

He also contended that each princeling has different political leanings, making it unlikely that they will band together.

Chen expected, however, that Hu Jintao would work with reformist factions after he stepped down to steadily push for reforms in the party and thereby serve as a leader across factional lines.

(By Tsai Su-jung and Scully Hsiao)