BEIJING (AP) -- Facing an era of galloping change, China's communists stepped into a new age Thursday, sending President Jiang Zemin toward retirement, pushing a younger generation of leaders forward and changing their mission to welcome the emerging capitalist class.
Hu Jintao, the man expected to replace Jiang in the monumental task of running China in an era of rapid change, became the only top politician re-elected to the party's ruling elite. It was the most solid sign yet of his ascent to the top of Asia's largest, fastest-growing country.
The 59-year-old vice president is the odds-on favorite to succeed Jiang as head of the party -- and as president in March -- in the first truly orderly transfer of authority since the communists took China in 1949.
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