A leadership transition in China has officially started with the transfer of senior Communist Party officials in two major cities. The move may be part of an effort by China's president to maintain political influence after his expected retirement next month.

China's state-run Xinhua News Agency says the Communist Party bosses of Beijing and Shanghai, Jia Qinglin and Huang Ju, have been moved to central government posts. Xinhua does not specify what their new jobs will be.

But Mr. Jia and Mr. Huang are key allies of Chinese President Jiang Zemin and both are members of the Communist Party's powerful 21-member Politburo. Some analysts think the two officials are poised for promotion at the Party Congress, which starts November 8. This is the 16th Party Congress - they take place every five years.

Mr. Jiang is expected to retire from his position as the party chief and hand that title to Vice President Hu Jintao. Observers say Mr. Jiang hopes to protect his legacy as the country's leader, by installing his protégés in senior positions at the upcoming congress.

A new Standing Committee of the Communist Party Politburo will be named at the meeting. Analysts say Mr. Huang and Mr. Jia may be elevated to that elite, seven-person body.

But Evan Medeiros, a China analyst at the Rand Corporation in Washington, warns that it is impossible to predict how the leadership reshuffle will play out.

"The upcoming 16th Party Congress?is clearly the most significant political event in China in a decade and perhaps longer," he said. " But it's also traditionally the most opaque and difficult to understand processes of political transition in the modern world."

Mr. Huang and Mr. Jia's transfers are the most high-profile moves in a series of leadership changes announced so far. Xinhua says the two will be replaced by the mayors of Shanghai and Beijing.