The Straits Times
Published on Nov 15, 2012

Hu Jintao steps down as chairman of the Central Military Commission


BEIJING - Setting a precedent from his predecessors, outgoing Communist Party chief and President Hu Jintao has stepped down as chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and made a historic full retirement from power.

Unlike late strongman Deng Xiaoping and former president Jiang Zemin who held on to their CMC posts despite retiring as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary, Mr Hu has decided to hand over both hats to Vice-President Xi Jinping, who will also assume the presidency next March.

Mr Hu, 69, had stepped down as party chief to Mr Xi on Wednesday when the week-long 18th Party Congress ended in capital Beijing as a result of the 68 year old age limit. But it remained unclear what he would do with the CMC chairman post - which carries no age limit - until an announcement by the official Xinhua news agency on Thursday morning.

Observers and various newspaper reports quoting party insiders have thrown up various reasons for Mr Hu's decision: to use his full retirement to bargain for more seats for his protégés in the apex Standing Committee; to leave a legacy by marking China's first clean power transfer; and to free himself from the tiring political battles after 20 years at the CCP's Zhongnanhai headquarters.