It is kind of reassuring to learn that the cause of the current jockeying for position in the Chinese leadership may be nothing more serious than the vanity of a 76yearold man. Jiang Zemin, who became President of China in 1993, is due to retire under Communist Party rules but for some time rumours have circulated in Beijing that he is trying to extend his term of office in order to ensure that his views on the modernisation of the Chinese economy are formally written into party policy. A meeting of senior party leaders ended last week without the expected announcement that the Communist Party Congress, at which a new President will be named, would be held in late September; hints were dropped that it would be postponed until November. Searching for reasons for a two month delay, experienced observers of the Chinese politburo have hit on the possibility that Jiang Zemin wants still to hold the office of President when he makes his longarranged October visit to President Bush's ranch in Texas. It is understandable that he wants to hold the trappings of office when he meets the most powerful (or second most powerful?) man in the world. Jiang's presumed successor for ten years has been Vice President Hu Jintao who is still only 59. After so long as the crown prince he is presumably willing to wait a couple of months more. But might not President Bush prefer to meet the man of the future than the one of the past? Or is that part of Jiang's plan?