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Hu Jintao Appointed New Leader of China's Communist Party

Hu Jintao has become the new chief of China's Communist Party and head of the so-called "fourth generation" of leaders.

The 59-year-old Mr. Hu and eight of the most powerful men in China walked out from behind a screen at the Great Hall of the People Friday, ending months of behind-the-scenes leadership battles. The nine men make up the Party's Politburo Standing Committee, which essentially rules China.

In a speech broadcast live on state television, Mr. Hu said he and the other new leaders will live up to the great trust of the entire party and the expectations of people across the country. Mr. Hu praised the 13-year leadership of his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, and pledged to continue China's policies of reform, economic development and opening to the world.

In addition to inheriting Mr. Jiang's position as General Secretary of the party, Mr. Hu is almost certain to become president when Mr. Jiang steps down from the post next March.

This has been the most orderly and peaceful transfer of power in 53 years of Communist rule. Yet the 76-year-old Mr. Jiang is expected to maintain a strong grip on power for perhaps the next several years.

Xinhua News Agency says Mr. Jiang has kept his post as chairman of China's Central Military Commission, a move that guarantees him a say in government. Mr. Hu will continue as his deputy on the commission.

Mr. Jiang has also placed key allies in the most senior party positions. Six of the nine members of the new Politburo Standing Committee are loyal to Mr. Jiang, due to friendship or a shared background in governing Shanghai, the country's financial capital.

Mr. Jiang's allies include the new number-two leader, Wu Bangguo, a former Shanghai party boss who is expected to take over China's parliament next year. Mr. Jiang's main protege, Zeng Qinghong, is expected to take over the day-to-day running of the party's affairs.

Wen Jiabao, an ally of Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, is third in line on the committee. Mr. Wen, an expert in rural economies, looks set to replace Mr. Zhu when he retires next year.