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Youngest mayor is greeted by controversy

A 28-YEAR-OLD man who is believed to be China's youngest city mayor admitted yesterday that he understood the reasons for the heated debate on the Internet over his youth and alleged inexperience.

Zhou Senfeng, formerly acting mayor of central China's Yicheng City, was elected mayor on Sunday in a secret ballot by the city's People's Congress.

"The concerns about my inexperience are reasonable, I should say," Zhou acknowledged.

"As a youthful mayor born after 1980, I lag far behind senior officials in experience," said Zhou, a graduate of the prestigious Tsinghua University, known as the cradle of senior officials, such as President Hu Jintao.

"But what young officials need is the stage where they can perform," he said. "We will develop better given such a stage."

Zhou pledged to "live up to the people's expectations and be fully devoted to the development of Yicheng."

His appointment coincided with the government's campaign to foster more young cadres. In March, Vice President Xi Jinping said the training and selection of young officials was "of great importance for the lasting stability of the Party and the state."

More than two-thirds of the 20,000-plus respondents to an online survey by said they "accept Zhou's election as mayor at such a young age as long as the election was fair."

"His age is not a problem as long as he is qualified for the job," said one posting from Beijing .

But a quarter of the respondents said he is too young to be mayor.

"I have been a civil servant for 20 years and I am still a low-ranking official," said one posting from Shaanxi Province. "Zhou, who served in the government for only five years, must have connections to reach such a position so soon."

But Zhou responded that he was born to an ordinary family and his parents lived in the countryside.

More than 90 percent of the respondents to an online survey by and the in April said they believed that the experience of most young cadres was relatively limited and that they should acquire more of life's wisdom before being given decision-making authority.


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