China appoints new top official for export powerhouse Guangdong

BEIJING Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:37am EST

Hu Chunhua, Communist Party chief of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, gestures as he attends the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in this March 14, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

Hu Chunhua, Communist Party chief of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, gestures as he attends the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in this March 14, 2012 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee/Files

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China announced on Tuesday the appointment of rising star Hu Chunhua as Communist Party boss for the southern export powerhouse of Guangdong, the country's richest and most liberal province.

Hu will take over from reform-minded politician Wang Yang, who undertook restructuring the economy away from an export-driven model and grappled with rising social tensions among migrant workers.

Hu's appointment was announced in a brief statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency. It said Wang Jun will replace Hu as party chief in Inner Mongolia. But the article did not say where Wang Yang, seen by many in the West as a beacon of political reform, will be moved to.

Reuters reported last month that Hu, the former Inner Mongolia party chief, was tipped to take over as party chief in Guangdong.

Hu, 49, is part of the so-called "sixth generation" of potential national leaders born in the 1960s, after the generations headed by Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping.

Hu Chunhua spent two decades in restive and remote Tibet, where he learned to speak Tibetan, rare for a Han Chinese official. While there, he came under the wing of Hu Jintao, the outgoing president.

The two Hus are not related despite sharing a family name.

In Inner Mongolia, Hu Chunhua, also known as "Little Hu", has been referred to as a future president. While there, Hu Chunhua oversaw rapid economic growth and dealt successfully with protests last year by ethnic Mongols.

Hu Chunhua came to Inner Mongolia following a brief stint in Hebei, the arid province which surrounds Beijing, where he was rapidly moved after a scandal over tainted milk in which at least six children died and thousands became ill.

Hu Chunhua remains something of an enigma, even in China. He has given few clues about his deeper policy beliefs. One of the best known things about him is that he does not appear to dye his hair jet black like many politicians.

In meetings with the public, Hu Chunhua comes across as low key and self effacing, in line with an image of a loyal, humble Communist Party member. People who have met him describe him as relaxed, easy-going and spontaneous, unlike stiffer party leaders.

Despite having a reputation as more of a moderate and a reformer, Hu Chunhua sent back to jailed Inner Mongolia's most notable Mongol dissident, Hada, almost as soon as he completed a 15-year sentence for separatism in late 2010.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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