Two 46-year-old officials Monday became China's youngest provincial-level Party chiefs as the country announced major leadership reshuffles ahead of the 18th Party Congress in 2012.
Former Hebei governor Hu Chunhua and ex-minister of agriculture Sun Zhengcai, both born in 1963, took the Party chief posts in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and Jilin province respectively.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) also announced that Sun Chunlan, deputy chairwoman and Party secretary of All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), replaced Lu Zhangong, 57, as secretary of the Fujian Provincial Party Committee.
Lu, who was Fujian's Party chief for nearly six years, was named Party chief in Henan, the most populous province.
Former Jilin provincial Party chief Wang Min, 59, was appointed to the same post in Liaoning province.
Three of the five officials who were succeeded by the younger leaders - namely, Zhang Wenyue, Chu Bo and Xu Guangchun - were 65 this year, the standard age at which minister-level cadres must retire.
Appointments have not yet been made to the posts left vacant by the Suns - ACFTU deputy chairperson and minister of agriculture.
Hu Chunhua was governor of Hebei for a year. He had previously studied at Peking University, worked in Tibet and served as the First Secretary of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China.
Sun Zhengcai had worked in the Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences and was head of the capital's Shunyi district. He holds a doctorate degree in agriculture and was minister of agriculture for three years.
"Hu and Sun's appointments as provincial Party secretaries are important steps toward selections of Party officials at younger ages," said Wang Yukai, a professor with the National School of Administration. "It was rare in the past for such younger officials to be named provincial-level Party chiefs."
Vice-President Xi Jinping said the training and selection of young cadres was "of great importance for the lasting stability of the Party and the state".
Wang said all five newly appointed Party chiefs will be younger than 65 when the CPC holds its 18th plenary congress in 2012.
"They will have more promotion chances."
Wang also noted that Hu has governing experience in regions populated by ethnic minorities.
As to Sun, he has experience related to agriculture, and Jilin is a big agricultural province.
In a related development, the Central Committee of the CPC yesterday removed Wang Hongju from his post as mayor of Chongqing, China's largest municipality.
The widely influential 64-year-old had been mayor for six years.
Huang Qifan, a vice mayor for eight years, has been nominated as a candidate for Chongqing mayor.
Huang, 57, had three decades of studying and working in Shanghai.