The man tipped to be China’s next president has received an important boost by being promoted to the powerful commission that controls the Chinese military.
Xi Jinping, vice-president, was on Monday appointed as one of the vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission at the end of a top-level Communist party meeting. The move is seen as a key step towards his eventual succession to Hu Jintao, current president, in two years.
Chinese leaders exert power through three different offices – general-secretary of the Communist party, state president and chair of the military commission. The 57-year-old Mr Xi’s failure to win a place on the military commission last year had raised questions about whether his candidacy enjoyed strong support. Many of those doubts are now likely to dissipate.
The news came at the end of a four-day annual meeting of the Communist party’s central committee. Comprised of more than 300 members, the committee approved the broad outlines of the next five-year plan for the economy, which will be released in detail next spring.
In the run-up to this year’s meeting, Wen Jiabao, premier, made some increasingly bold statements in favour of political reform, prompting speculation that he might use the occasion to push for more opening of the political system, even though he faces fierce opposition from more conservative members of the senior leadership.
The communiqué released at the end of the meeting said that there would be “vigorous yet steady” efforts to promote political restructuring, according to the Xinhua news agency, but gave no details of any new reform ideas.
Meanwhile, Winston Wen, the premier’s son has officially resigned from his private-equity firm and joined a state-controlled investment firm set up under the auspices of China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp, which runs part of China’s space programme.
People close to the younger Mr Wen say that his resignation from New Horizon Capital, the private equity fund he co-founded in 2005, is intended to remove a potential source of scandal for the premier as he pushes for political reform.
接近温云松的人士表示，他从自己在2005年联合创立的私人股本基金新天域资本(New Horizon Capital)辞职，是为了让温家宝在推动政治改革之际，消除一个潜在的丑闻来源。
“Winston has been under a lot of pressure; his father has been making a lot of waves with his strong public statements recently and it doesn’t look good if his son is on the side making lots of money,” said one person close to the younger Mr Wen.
Although he has publicly cut his ties with New Horizon, Winston, whose Chinese name is Wen Yunsong, still has money in the fund and will continue to be involved behind the scenes, according to people familiar with the matter.