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Hu Jintao may quit as head of military during transition: analysts

HONG KONG -- Analysts in Taiwan and Hong Kong said it is possible that Chinese President Hu Jintao will step down from the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission, which controls the People's Liberation Army (PLA), in the upcoming once-in-a-decade leadership transition in Beijing.

An analyst in Hong Kong, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told CNA Sunday that Hu's administration has for years strived to reform the Communist Party of China's (CPC's) political system. This, according to the analyst, is a reason for him to step down from his position as the country's top military leader when he hands over the presidency.

China's leadership change is scheduled to take place Nov. 8 at the party's 18th National Congress, in which Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to succeed Hu as CPC leader.

The analyst said that since the CPC established the PLA in 1927, the leader of the party has almost always doubled as the military leader.

If Hu values the system, he will step down from his post as the chairman of the CPC'S Central Military Commission, he said.

But Chang Wu-ueh, director and associate professor at the Graduate Institute of China Studies of Tamkang University in Taipei, said it is likely Hu will follow the examples of his predecessors Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, who both retained control of the military for two years before eventually handing it over to their successors.

Sharing Chang's opinion was Yang Kai-huang, a public affairs professor at Ming Chuan University, also in Taipei, who said Hu might retain his power over the military for a year before handing the reins to Xi, in light of domestic and foreign challenges faced by China prior to its leadership transition.

However, Lin Chong-pin, a former deputy defense minister of and vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council Republic of China and a retired professor from Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, said in an article published in the Chinese-language United Daily News Oct. 12 that he believes Hu will step down from both the presidency and the top military post.

Lin cited three reasons for Hu's full power handover: Xi's military background, Hu's distinct ruling style and his “harmonious relations” with Xi.

Both Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin cited their successors' non-military background as a reason for them to retain their control over the military, Lin wrote in the article.

But Xi, who used to serve as personal secretary to former Chinese Minister of Defense Geng Biao and who is the son of Xi Zhongxun, a CPC revolutionary veteran, has strong military ties of his own, Lin said.

In addition, both Hu and Xi see Hu Yaobang, a liberal reformer, as a mentor, indicating that there is little if any contradiction in terms of ideology between the two, according to Lin.

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