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Speculation intensifies over China's new leaders
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 2, 2012


Chinese ships in disputed waters: Japan
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 2, 2012 - Six Chinese government ships temporarily cruised in the territorial waters of disputed Tokyo-controlled islands on Friday, Japan's coastguard said.

Four maritime surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile zone around one of the East China Sea islands shortly before noon (0300 GMT) but moved out nearly two hours later, the coastguard said.

They were sailing near Uotsurijima, the main islet of the disputed chain called the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China.

Then two fisheries patrol boats cruised within 12 nautical miles of Kubajima, another isle in the chain, for about 30 minutes, the coastguard said.

The six ships remained within 24-nautical-mile "contiguous" waters off either Uotsurijima or Kubajima at 7:00 pm (1000 GMT), a coastguard official said.

Chinese vessels have moved in and out of what Japan says is its sovereign territory over the last two months, since Tokyo nationalised some of the islands.

As well as the potential mineral reserves to which ownership of the islands grants access, both countries have considerable amounts of national pride at stake in the decades-old spat.

The dispute has hit the huge trade relationship between the two largest economies in the region. Senior representatives from both governments are reportedly readying for a third round of talks on the issue.

Speculation intensified Friday over who will be named the new leaders of China's Communist Party as the country's political elite met for a second day ahead of a once-in-a-decade power handover.

Hong Kong-based Mirror Books website, which has accurately predicted China's incoming leaders in the past, said it believed the new line-up would be dominated by party conservatives unlikely to make major reforms.

The South China Morning Post newspaper made the same prediction Friday, citing sources close to the inner workings of the power transition.

The Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party currently consists of nine men, including Hu Jintao who will step down as general secretary at the 18th Party Congress which begins next week, and his presumed successor, Vice President Xi Jinping.

Xi is expected to replace Hu, while current Vice Premier Li Keqiang appears set to take over from Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

In addition to Xi and Li -- the only current leaders who will not retire from the standing committee -- Mirror Books predicted the new line-up would include Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Zhang Gaoli and Wang Qishan, citing sources close to the party.

The committee is expected to be cut from nine members to seven in an effort to simplify its consensus-style rule, while Hu and Wen will formally step down from their roles as president and premier in March.

About 500 top officials are attending the secretive Central Committee meeting that began Thursday to finalise the top appointments, ahead of the Congress.

"This looks like the line-up. It is not one that will be good for reform hopes," Willy Lam, a prominent China watcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP.

"Barring any overwhelming opposition to these people (at the Central Committee meeting), there is unlikely to be any last-minute changes."

The final line-up of the new committee will not be made public until the close of the party congress in mid-November, although analysts have drawn up numerous lists as debate rages about who will be included and how the choices will affect the country.

Most of the named newcomers have ties to China's 86-year-old former president Jiang Zemin, while prominent reformers and proteges linked to Hu will not win places on the committee, Lam said.

The central committee meeting will likely end on Saturday, he said.

The leadership debate has been complicated by ongoing graft and other scandals linked to top leaders -- including ousted former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, who is likely to be expelled from the party.

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