Bitter wrangling behind the scenes over power transition

Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) and former president Jiang Zemin applaud at the opening of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 8, 2012. Vice President Xi Jinping had moved closer to taking the reins of power and is expected to replace President Hu Jintao as party chief in a once-a-decade power transition, setting the stage for his promotion to president of the world's most populous nation, expected by March 2013.

BEIJING - China's new leaders will be unveiled next Thursday, ending months of intense jostling for positions in the top council of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The 18th Party Congress, which started last Wednesday, will end on Wednesday, the political meeting's spokesman Cai Mingzhao said yesterday.

As per tradition, the new leadership will meet the media and the world the day after the closing at the Great Hall of the People here.

But the line-up to replace the retiring team led by President Hu Jintao remains a mystery.

Wrangling among rival factions of elders, princelings and apparatchiks is believed to be bitter, said analysts.

"The Chinese leadership succession is in a transitional period marked by the absence of one strong leader who is capable of coordinating, persuading, and managing the collective opinion of the elite to come up with a final candidates' list," said China expert Tan Qingshan from Cleveland State University.

Several lists of the new team have been circulating online, all purporting to be from sources deep within the CCP and to be unique and true.

Among the compilers of these lists, there is not even an agreement on the size of the new Politburo Standing Committee.

While many say that its size will be slashed from the current nine seats to seven, others argue the status quo will remain.

Its composition has invited even more speculation. Only Vice-President Xi Jinping and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang are confirmed entries.

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