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Leadership Questions Remain as China's Communist Party Congress Nears End - 2002-11-13

As China's secretive Communist Party Congress winds down, it is still not clear who will occupy many of the country's top leadership jobs. But intense political maneuvering means there will be new faces and some old policies.

News reports say all but one of the seven people on the all-powerful Standing Committee of the Communist Party's Politburo will be retiring at the end of the current Congress. Only Vice President Hu Jintao will remain.

The seven-member committee is the pinnacle of the 66 million member Communist Party that rules China.

Mr. Hu is widely expected to stay on the powerful committee and take over the post of Communist Party General-Secretary from President Jiang Zemin.

Among those leaving power is the popular head of a large legislative advisory group, Li Ruihuan, who is considered a rival of Mr. Jiang.

Several scholars say President Jiang will continue to wield influence in retirement by packing the Standing Committee with his supporters.

Mr. Jiang's grip on future power is reinforced by the party's expected adoption of major rule changes allowing business people to join the Communist Party. The political maneuverings to fill other important posts have taken place behind closed doors, leaving veteran China scholars guessing about which top officials will make up the new collective leadership.

The author of a book on China's leadership, Cheng Li, says the lack of information shows the intense phase of the maneuvering is over and the party is uniting. Mr. Cheng is a professor at Hamilton College in the United States.

"If there was a vicious power struggle going on, you would see more leaks," he said.

Without leaks, journalists have been reduced to shouting questions at delegates to the Congress as they walk by the meeting venue, the Great Hall of the People.

When the final roster of leaders comes out on Thursday or Friday, it will likely contain some surprises.