China faces to watch: Liu Yandong

China is gearing up to change its top leaders, a process that begins at the end of the year. This week, the annual parliamentary session will give those in the running the chance to show off their credentials. The BBC's Michael Bristow profiles key figures.

Liu Yandong is something extremely rare in the higher echelons of Chinese politics - she is a woman.

She is, in fact, the only woman to occupy one of the 25 seats on the Chinese Communist Party's politburo.

If China wants diversity, this fact alone might go in Ms Liu's favour when the current leaders decide who will be promoted later this year to the politburo's standing committee.

Ms Liu is also a state councillor, one of the few women in a senior position in the government.

She is also well-connected. She has work ties to the man in charge at the moment, President Hu Jintao, and is a "princeling", one of a group of senior leaders whose parents were important revolutionaries or officials.

Ms Liu's father was a vice-minister of agriculture.

Image caption Ms Liu's age may work against her, as China has shown a preference for new blood

She seems to favour increasing China's contacts with the outside world, recently encouraging foreign scientists to work with Chinese experts.

Some analysts suggest this marks her out as a reformer. But as with other Chinese leaders, it is difficult to say exactly how much change she is willing to see take place.

One issue that might go against her in the battle for a place on the standing committee of the politburo is her age. She was born in 1945.

Over recent years China has tried to force older officials to retire to introduce new blood. At 66, she could only perhaps serve one term on the standing committee.