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Hu to step down as military chief

BEIJING (PTI): China's new leader in waiting, Xi Jinping will have a surprise head-start to emerge as the most influential leader, as outgoing President Hu Jintao has reportedly decided to step down from all posts including the all-powerful post of the military chief.

Xi, 59, currently the Vice President is expected to be formally nominated as the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party at the end of the ongoing 18th Communist Party Congress on its last day on November 14.

Scorching speculation, Hu has decided to formally relinquish his position as military chief at the end of the party Congress, Hong Kong-based 'South China Morning Post' quoted officials as saying.

Hu's decision to opt for complete retirement has surprised many analysts as he was expected to keep the top job of the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, especially in the backdrop of recent reshuffling of military top brass which was packed with officials who worked closely with him.

Vice Premier, Li Keqiang, 57 regarded as successor to Premier Wen Jiabao is also Hu's protege.

The Central Military Commission overseas all aspects of 2.3 million strong military.

Xi is currently its Vice Chairman.

Turning 70 next month, Hu technically will be stepping down as Party Chief and as President after the Congress on November 14.

But the formal transfer of power was expected to take place early next year.

Hu's complete departure from Party and Military is watched closely in India as he is widely regarded as one of post Mao Zedong Chinese leaders who rebalanced ties with India bringing an element of "strategic equilibrium" to otherwise pro-Pakistan Chinese foreign policy.

He is credited to have reset Sino-Indian ties, repairing the damage caused by the 1962 border war and improved ties.

Barring the problem of stapled visa to residents of Jammu and Kashmir in 2009, which China stopped after vociferous objections from New Delhi, a number of initiatives including agreement to prevent tensions at disputed borders provided a positive momentum to bilateral ties.

During the tenure of Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao, Sino- Indian trade touched an all time high of $73.90 billion last year.

Indian officials expect continuity of the policy as Xi and Li, who also the post-Kargil war Chinese leaders, are part of the process to improve Sino-Indian ties, even though they have not visited India in recent times.

Hu's departure will mark the first clean transfer of power the Communist Party has seen in two decades.

This gives a head-start for Xi, unlike Hu when he was chosen as President 10 years ago as his predecessor, Jiang Zemin retained the post of Head of the Military for about two years after retirement, broadly retaining his influence over the Party and the Military, which unlike elsewhere in the world are part of the state structure in China.

Jiang, reportedly heading the Shanghai faction of the Communist Party also played a major role in the new leadership selection currently underway at the Party Congress.

Xi was regarded as his protege as he previously headed the Shanghai Party unit before becoming Vice President 10 years ago.

When he is formally declared as Hu's successor, Xi will get the posts of General Secretary of the Party, President of the country and Chairman of the Military Commission, the Post said.


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