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Hu Jintao

Hu Jintao (simplified: 胡锦涛; traditional[?]: 胡錦濤; pinyin: hu2 jin3 tao2 Wade-Giles Hu Chin-t'ao) (born 1942) became General Secretary of the Communist Party of China on November 15, 2002. He became President of the People's Republic of China on March 15, 2003, following his election by the National People's Congress, thus replacing his predecessor Jiang Zemin.

Although Jiang Zemin, 76, stepped down from the powerful Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China to make way for a younger "fourth generation" of leadership led by Hu, There was speculation that Jiang Zemin would retain significant power because six out of the nine new members of the all-powerful Standing Committee are linked to Jiang's "Shanghai clique" and are considered his "protégés" and Hu is not associated with this clique. The 22-member Politburo is elected by the Party's central committee. Real power in Communist China lies with this committee, which works as a kind of inner cabinet and groups together the country's most influential leaders. At the 2002 16th Party Congress, the Standing Committee was expanded to include nine members.

Hu is by training a hydraulic engineer who graduated from China's prestigious Qinghua University. According to his official biography, he is claimed to have a photographic memory. His career is remarkable for his rapid ascendancy to power, attributed to his moderate views and careful attention not to offend or alienate his older backers. He is the first party chief to have joined the Communist Party after the Revolution over 50 years ago. In the late 1980s, Hu Jintao served as Party Secretary in Tibet and was responsible for a political crackdown in early 1989, leading to the deaths of a number Tibetan activists. In his 50s, Hu was the youngest member of the then seven-member Standing Committee by far.

Since taking over as Party General Secretary, Hu Jintao has appeared to have an more egalitarian style than his predecessor, and there has been no obvious signs that Jiang Zemin is still exercising power. He has focused on sectors of the Chinese population which have been left behind by the economic reform, and has taken a number of high profile trips to the poorer areas of China with the stated goal of understanding these areas better. The major early crisis of Hu's leadership has been dealing with the outbreak of SARS. Following strong criticism of China by the World Health Organization and others for covering up and responding slowly to the crisis, he sacked several party and government officials, including the health minister and mayor of Beijing, and took steps to increase the transparency of China's reporting to international health organizations.

Jiang Zemin (left) with Hu Jintao (right)

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