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China starts reshuffle ahead of leadership change

China's ruling Communist Party has announced a reshuffle to a key post, state press said today, a move widely seen as ushering in a once-a-decade leadership transition later this year.

world Updated: Sep 02, 2012 10:02 IST

China's ruling Communist Party has announced a reshuffle to a key post, state press said on Sunday, a move widely seen as ushering in a once-a-decade leadership transition later this year.

Li Zhanshu, 62, former head of the southwest province of Guizhou, was on Saturday named to head the party's powerful Politburo general office, the People's Daily reported, a job that puts Li in charge of the party's day-to-day workings.

Li replaces Ling Jihua, outgoing President Hu Jintao's top aide, who has been named to head the party's United Front Work Department, the paper said.

As part of the leadership transition, Hu will step down as the party's general secretary -- the top party post -- at a Party Congress expected to take place in the coming weeks and resign from the presidency at a parliamentary meeting next March, ending his 10 years as China's top leader.

Current Vice President Xi Jinping is slated to replace Hu in both posts.

"The new guy has good relations with Hu Jintao and also has ties with the new incoming leader," Bill Bishop, a Beijing-based consultant and writer of the Sinocism China Newsletter, told AFP.

"He will be an extremely influential person in Beijing, the party general secretary needs someone like this who is competent and can be trusted."

"More importantly this is really an indication that things are on track and that the next Party Congress is reasonably imminent."

No dates for the congress have been announced, but it is widely expected to take place next month.

China's authoritarian politics largely take place in secret.

Analysts believe the ongoing transition has been badly hampered by the ouster of charismatic politician Bo Xilai, whose wife was given a suspended death sentence last month for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Before the murder scandal broke in February this year, Bo had been seen as a candidate for promotion to China's top ruling body, the party's Politburo Standing Committee.