BEIJING (AP) _ China's former President Jiang Zemin will step down from his last remaining government post in March, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.

Jiang, who holds the largely symbolic title of chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China, has asked for permission to resign at the next meeting of the nation's legislature, the agency said.

The move was expected, and the legislature will almost definitely endorse it.

Jiang, 78, already stepped down from his more powerful position as the head of the Communist Party's Central Military Commission in September. President Hu Jintao took over the post.

The final resignation ``is a formality,'' said Wang Gungwu, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore.

``I don't think it is in itself very significant,'' Wang said. ``The significant decision was made some months ago when he resigned from the party's military commission.''

Jiang may still exert political influence as an elder statesman, Wang said, but not to the extent that Deng Xiaoping did after he had given up his government posts.

``He's not the same stature,'' Wang said.

Deng was considered China's paramount leader until his death in 1997, even after he had technically retired from office.

A former Shanghai mayor, Jiang was picked to lead the Communist Party in 1989, after it was thrown into tumult following the bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

He served as China's president from 1993 until 2003, shepherding China through a decade of enormous economic and social change. During his leadership, China boomed economically even as it remained an authoritarian one-party state politically.