Aging former Chinese leaders retain huge influence

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In this photo taken Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, second from left, is helped by Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, right, stands for the national anthem during the opening session of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING (AP) — When China's ranking communists file into the Great Hall of the People, you can spot the invited guests, the retired but still-influential men in their 70s, 80s and even 90s. Most of them no longer dye their hair the requisite jet black of Beijing's working leaders.

These men typically have no official posts anymore, but continue to make their preferences known and work behind the scenes to promote their proteges and allies to top posts on the party's Politburo.

Foremost among them is ex-President Jiang Zemin. An aide helped him to his seat next to outgoing President Hu Jintao at Thursday's opening of a pivotal Communist Party congress. Jiang watched the proceedings through enormous glasses.