Little Hu

MR HU Chunhua is a rising star who is slated to reach the top echelons of power in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and his rapid ascent is unlikely to be derailed by the May protests in Inner Mongolia, according to observers.

The career of the 48-year-old Inner Mongolia party boss could even get a boost from the demonstrations which erupted across the grasslands after a Mongol herder was killed by a Han Chinese driver in a hit-and-run accident.

Mr Hu seemed to have dealt with the riots appropriately, with no more unrest flaring up since, noted analyst Wang Zhengxu from Nottingham University's China Policy Institute. This has enhanced his credentials in the party, he said.

'It (the unrest) won't affect his career path negatively,' Dr Wang added.

Dr Bo Zhiyue, an expert on elite politics at Singapore's East Asian Institute, agreed. Protests like those that erupted in Inner Mongolia are not uncommon in China and so do not necessarily reflect badly on Mr Hu, a protege of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Many believe that Mr Hu, aptly nicknamed 'Little Hu', could eventually reach the top ranks of the CCP.

If Mr Xi Jinping, who will succeed President Hu as CCP chief in the second half of next year, is seen as the centre of China's fifth-generation leadership, the younger Hu is being touted by some analysts as a possible 'sixth generation' leader a decade from now.

Mr Hu certainly has the right credentials.

He shares many things in common with his mentor: No illustrious parents, but experience in Tibet as well as in the Communist Youth League.

He impressed many when he volunteered to work in Tibet after graduating from Peking University.

In 2009, he was made party chief of Inner Mongolia, the fastest among his cohort to assume such a position along with north-eastern Jilin provincial boss Sun Zhengcai.

Experts believe that he stands a good chance of being promoted to the 25-member Politburo during next year's 18th Party Congress.

There is even an outside chance that he will be admitted into the powerful Politburo Standing Committee, an even more exclusive club currently made up of just nine men.

The older Hu set a precedent when he was given a place in the elite club at the 14th Party Congress in 1992. He was 49 years old at the time and would take over as top party leader in 2003.

'There's going to be a vacancy for the post of vice-president in 2013 after Xi is elected as China's president. They will need to fill the post,' said Dr Bo.

Adding credence to such speculation is recent talk in the capital that Mr Hu may soon succeed Mr Liu Qi as Beijing party boss. Mr Liu turns 69 in November and is expected to retire by next year.

If this happens, it will further boost Mr Hu's chances of becoming the front- runner for China's top post in the next decade.


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