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Meeting to Decide on China's Next Leaders Set to Begin Nov. 8 - 2002-08-25


China's Communist Party has set November 8 for a Party Congress expected to make crucial decisions about the leadership and direction of the world's most populous nation.

President Jiang Zemin, and other leaders over the age of 70 are due to start retiring at the 16th Party Congress.

But recent secretive meetings by the country's leadership at a summer resort sparked weeks of speculation that Mr. Jiang wants to keep his position as head of the party, rather than turn it over to his expected successor, Vice President Hu Jintao.

Analysts and diplomats say Mr. Jiang may also want to keep his job as head of China's military.

The announcement in China's state media of the date of the party congress did not say if Mr. Jiang will keep some or all of his three jobs.

The congress is expected to consider changing the party's constitution to include President Jiang's blueprint to modernize the Communist Party. That plan is called "The Three Represents," and is controversial because it would allow private entrepreneurs to join the party.

China's Communist Party holds its Congresses every five years, generally in September or October.

Analysts say announcing a meeting in November could be evidence that China's top leaders are squabbling, or it might simply mean that President Jiang wants to keep the diplomatic clout that comes with his military and party posts when he meets with President Bush in late October.

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