Symbolic Power Transfer in China

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President Hu Jintao (search) on Sunday was named chairman of a figurehead government military body, symbolically completing a transfer of power to a younger generation of communist leaders.

Hu succeeded his predecessor as president, Jiang Zemin (search), who gave up his last official title when he resigned as chairman of the government's Central Military Commission (search). Hu replaced Jiang as Communist Party leader in 2002 and as president the next year.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported that Jiang praised Hu as a "young and energetic leader" with "excellent qualifications."

Hu, 62, already heads a parallel party commission that runs China's military. The government commission has no real power.

Hu was appointed to lead the government panel by delegates of the National People's Congress (search), who are holding their annual session. The vote was 2886-6, with five abstentions.

As results of the vote were announced in the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing, delegates applauded and Hu stood and bowed.

Unlike earlier Chinese leaders who were revered as heroes of the 1949 communist revolution, neither Hu nor Jiang has military experience. When appearing at military events, both have worn olive green military-style uniforms with no insignia.

Hu and other party leaders wore Western-style suits during Sunday's legislative session. The congress is due to finish its annual gathering on Monday.

Analysts say Jiang, 78, still exerts influence, but not to the extent that his predecessor, Deng Xiaoping, did after retiring from his government posts.

Deng was considered China's paramount leader until his death in 1997, even after he had retired from office.

A former Shanghai mayor, Jiang was chosen to head the party in 1989 in the tumult that followed the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests centered on Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

He served as president from 1993-2003, leading China through a decade of enormous economic and social change. During his leadership, China boomed economically even as it remained an authoritarian one-party political system.