Hu currently heads the Communist Party, the government and the military and is due to hand over all three positions to Xi Jinping, his current vice president, though not at the same time. He hands over the party job this month, the presidency next March and there is no clear timing for when the military post changes hands.
With the new political leadership just days away from being officially unveiled at a party congress, this underlines how the process of handing over all the instruments of power is still evolving in China, which has nuclear arms and boasts a 2.3 million-strong military.
Currently the world’s second-biggest economy, it has managed a bloodless leadership transition only once before — when Jiang Zemin handed power to Hu in the early 2000’s.
Hu has generally toed a moderate military line on issues such as Taiwan and territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea, but he has also overseen an ambitious military build-up, including the launch of China’s first aircraft carrier and the development of stealth fighters.
America’s renewed security focus on the Asia Pacific has also unnerved the People’s Liberation Army.