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Cover Arhive
Special> 18th CPC National Congress> Cover Arhive
UPDATED: October 18, 2011 NO. 39, 2004
A Smooth Transition

For many Chinese, the news came as no big surprise when the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee accepted the resignation of Jiang Zemin, 78, from the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission (CMC) on the final day of a four-day plenum. The reins were handed to Hu Jintao, 61, completing a smooth power transition to a younger generation of Chinese military leadership.

The change means Hu now serves in his own triumvirate as Party chief, state president and military head as Jiang retires from his last formal position of power.

"It is to be expected," said a civil servant in Beijing, who declined to be named, as Jiang himself took over the military job from his predecessor, the late paramount Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, at the Fifth Plenum of the 13th CPC Central Committee 15 years ago.

Deng stepped down from the military post two years after quitting the all-powerful Political Bureau at the 13th CPC National Congress in 1987, while Jiang held onto his military post after quitting the Party's top post of the Central Committee at the 16th CPC National Congress in November 2002, and stepped down from the state presidency months later.

Hu succeeded Jiang as Party chief in late 2002 and as president in early 2003. He had been a vice chairman of the commanding CMC since 1999.

Jiang bows out

The handover of the military job on September 19 came after mounting speculation that Jiang may have taken the escalating cross-strait tensions as an opportunity to stay on.

But that didn't happen. Though no official reason for his quitting was available, Jiang, who had not been due to retire completely until 2007, said in a resignation letter dated September 1, that he "intended to resign from the current post, which is good for the development of the undertakings of the Party, the state and the armed forces."

Jiang told the Party Central Committee he had decided to retire from Party and government positions hoping to "institutionalize, standardize, and pro-ceduralize" generational transfers of power for state and Party leadership.

He also explained later while attending an enlarged meeting of the CMC that for a large party like the CPC and a large country like China, "it is not only necessary, but also the most appropriate option to adopt a three-in-one leadership system under which Party general secretary, state president and CMC chairman is the same person."

Jiang proposed in his resignation letter that Hu succeed him as CMC chairman, saying Hu "is completely qualified for the post," the same words Deng said to him 15 years ago.

Jiang made a wise choice to step down and recommend Hu to succeed him, which is conducive to consolidating China's political stability, cementing the CPC's governing capability and enhancing democracy inside the CPC, said an editorial in Hong Kong-based Ming Pao.

Under the 13-year leadership of Jiang, China achieved sustained and high economic growth, basic internal stability and smooth opening up, noted the editorial, crediting Jiang for his "good performance" as a national leader.

The communique of the plenum released by the official Xinhua News Agency also said Jiang had "grasped the development trends of new military reforms in the world with his great insight" and had enriched the military ideology of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping to "found the Jiang Zemin thought for national defense and military development."

"Giving up his position for the future of China's political system, replacing the old with the new is good advancement," said a comment on BBS of sina.com.

In a newscast televised by the state-run China Central Television, Jiang, accompanied by Hu who addressed him as "our respected Comrade Jiang Zemin," met with all those present at the plenum after the session.

Jiang first thanked the Party Central Committee for accepting his resignation as CMC chairman, and then extended "heartfelt gratitude" to all comrades of the Party for their support during his tenure. Flushed with emotion, Jiang spoke, in his words: "from the bottom of my heart."

"I hope that everyone will work hard and keep advancing under the leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Hu Jintao as general secretary," said Jiang.

Hu then thanked Jiang for his "emotional and important speech," and paid "supreme respect" to him on behalf of all plenum delegates. The two shook hands amid an outburst of thunderous and prolonged applause while posing for photos.

Jiang further expressed his strong support for Hu while the two attended an enlarged CMC meeting after the closing of the plenum. He praised the 61-year-old Hu as a "young and energetic" leader with "rich leadership experience" and "excellent qualifications."

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