China elder Jiang Zemin moves down pecking order

BEIJING (AP) - The influential Chinese ex-President Jiang Zemin has been moved down the top leadership's pecking order - at least in public - as the ruling Communist Party prepares for the final stages of a generational handover in power.

The official Xinhua News Agency said today in a brief dispatch that Jiang asked party leaders to group him with other retired elders when announced and seated at formal events.

Jiang used to be second to current President Hu Jintao in the protocol at major events, reflecting his status as former president.

Xinhua praised Jiang's move as "reflecting the noble character and sterling integrity and open-mindedness of a Communist." Analysts say the move has symbolic significance but it remained unclear if Jiang would reduce his behind-the-scenes influence on party affairs.