China's ruling Communist Party unveiled on Monday a new leadership line-up including two men likely to eventually succeed President Hu Jintao and government head Premier Wen Jiabao.
Xi Jinping, who has been chief of Shanghai, and Li Keqiang, who has headed the northeast province of Liaoning, were promoted to the new nine-member Politburo Standing Committee -- the innermost ring of power.
While Xi, 54, and Li, 52, have not been openly designated to replace Hu and Wen five years hence, their relative youth and status leave little doubt they are favored to eventually assume the apex of power.
Their promotions mark Hu's growing grip on power, but their emergence will also test the Party's power to engineer an untroubled succession in an era when no one leader commands absolute loyalty.
"There must be a politically resolute, staunchly unified and energetic and promising collective central leadership," the People's Daily -- official voice of the Party -- urged on Monday.
The nine men in dark suits emerged after a closely controlled vote by the Party's 204-member Central Committee, installed at the end of its five-yearly Congress on Sunday.
Xi filed into the Great Hall of the People directly ahead of Li, but there was no clear indication of which man was favored for which government job.