A Disappearing Act

Every appearance by Chinese leaders is political. They enter rooms in single file according to rank, and newspapers place photos of senior officials higher on the page than those of lesser rivals. So strict are the rules that when Hu Jintao took over as Party chief from Jiang Zemin two years ago, Beijing's print media waited four hours for instructions from propaganda officials on whose picture to run at the top. (They ran side by side.) The two leaders are now thought to be jockeying for power; Jiang remains chairman of the Central Military Commission, and a key Party meeting...

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