Chinese military leader Jiang Zemin retires

By John Ruwitch

Beijing - Chinese greeted the news on Sunday that ageing leader Jiang Zemin had retired from politics for good with kind words about the outgoing commander-in-chief and high hopes for the future under his successor, Hu Jintao.

Jiang, 78, resigned from the chairmanship of the Communist Party's Central Military Commission and Hu, 61, took over, completing a historic power transition to a younger generation.

Feng Keyu, 32, from the southern province of Guizhou said the transfer of military power was to be expected.

"It was time for him to step down," she said as she waited to board a flight at Beijing airport.

"From the time he started to lead the country until now, China has changed a lot and citizens are mostly satisfied."

Hu succeeded Jiang as party chief in late 2002 and as president in early 2003. He had been a vice chairman of the commanding Central Military Commission since 1999.

The handover of the military job on Sunday came after mounting speculation that Jiang may have tendered his resignation as a gambit to stay on or to get his closest ally, Vice President Zeng Qinghong, into the military's decision-making body.

Neither happened. Still, widespread apathy in China about issues involving the senior leadership was evident in many who said the change meant little to their daily life.

"It does not have a whole lot of effect on us," said Dong Ying, 24, who works in Internet networking.

"It's not like the United States where policies are known before they get into office, so we don't know what new policies there might be," he said with a shrug.

"But it should be better. The younger generation is good."

Others applauded Jiang for finally stepping down.

"It's great news," said Mao Mao, a businessman from the southern province of Guangdong. "He was way too old and it was inappropriate."

"Giving up his position for the future of China's political system, replacing the old with the new... I think that it is a good advance," said a 23-year-old student who identified herself as Cocle.

An editor from the northern province of Shanxi who works at a Beijing publishing house said he was glad about the change because he had more faith in Hu.

"Who's up and who's down doesn't matter as long as they do a good job for the country," said the man who declined to give his name.

"I have more faith in Hu. First, he's new. Second, he showed boldness in his handling of the SARS outbreak last year and other national affairs."

Many could not be bothered by the details.

"No matter who's at the top, we welcome it," said Sun Ruiguang, manning the back gate of a five-star hotel in Beijing.

"We will still go about our business, still eat our meals. We'll support whoever's at the top."

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