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Political rising star and ally of China’s President Xi Jinping steps into spotlight

One of China’s rising political stars and an ally of President Xi Jinping made a rare appearance in the public spotlight on Saturday, giving his first work report as Beijing’s mayor.

Cai Qi was made the capital’s acting mayor in October last year and political analysts have made him a front runner to take a post in the Politburo in a government reshuffle in the autumn.

He is likely to join the top decision-making body in the role of local Communist Party chief in Beijing, according to observers.

Cai, 62, stood out from his colleagues in Beijing with his height and undyed grey hair on the rostrum on Saturday.

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He spent about 90 minutes reading out his work report in a slightly hoarse voice with a heavy Fujian provincial accent.

Cai pledged to try his best to reduce concentrations of PM2.5 – pollutant particles in smog that are smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, which can penetrate a person’s lungs and are most harmful to health – by about 18 per cent this year.

An annual average target of PM2.5 was set at 60 micrograms per cubic metre by the State Council four years ago, when Beijing’s annual average level of PM2.5 was 89 micrograms.

The annual average in 2016 was 73 micrograms, so the city is still only half way to reaching its target, with only one year to go.

The acceptable PM2.5 annual average set by the WHO is 20-25 micrograms per cubic metre.

Cai’s appointment in Beijing is his fourth job in four years.

He has worked with Xi for more than a decade, first in Fujian and later in Zhejiang province.

He was promoted to the National Security Commission three years ago, which was founded and chaired by Xi, and became deputy director of its general office.

Beijing’s Communist Party chief Guo Jinlong, has reached retirement age and is expected to step down at the party’s National Congress in Beijing this autumn.

The mayor of the capital has always taken the party chief role over the past 20 years.

Cai’s job at the national security commission included politics, diplomacy and finance, but his formal title was only confirmed in the shadowy role after he left to become acting mayor in Beijing.

In a rare practice, the capital’s former party chief, Liu Qi, was invited to sit in at the meeting.

Liu, a former member of the Politburo, was seated beside Cai, and was formally introduced by the announcer before Cai delivered his report.

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As Cai returned to his seat after giving his report, Liu reached out his hand for a handshake, before whispering a few comments to Cai about the report as he pointed at the copy in front of him.

Cai nodded with a smile and cupped his hands, a Chinese gesture for gratitude and respect.

At the end of the meeting, the pair kept talking on their way to the exit as Cai put his arm around Liu’s shoulder.

Liu, 75, who was considered a protégé of former president Jiang Zemin, came from Jiang’s home province of Jiangsu.

He worked in Wuhan in the 1960s, when Jiang had a brief stint in the city. His career started to take off in the 1990s, after Jiang became the country’s top leader. Liu retired in 2012.

When speeches of Communist cadres are under strict scrutiny, attending or sitting in at an event is usually seen as a gesture of support in Chinese politics, especially for the someone such as Liu, who did not play any role in the event.

Article source: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2062191/chinese-political-rising-star-steps-spotlight-pledges