Xi Jinping Becomes New Head of Chinese Communist Party, China
Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Premier Li Keqiang enter at a press conference to introduce the new members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China 15 November 2012. EPA/BGNES
Xi Jinping has been named general secretary of China's Communist Party Central Committee, succeeding outgoing President Hu Jintao in the post.
Xi will formally take over the country's leadership in March 2013, with Li Keqiang set to replace Wen Jiabao as Prime Minister of the People's Republic of China.
The 18th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party wrapped up on Wednesday paving the way for this once-in-a-decade power transition in China, the world's second-largest economy.
On Thursday, the newly elected Central Committee met to select the new Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee: China's most powerful body.
This is the first time in decades that the country's governing bodies have seen such an inflow of fresh faces, RIA Novosti reported.
One of the other new faces in the Standing Committee is former China Construction Bank head Wang Qishan, 64, who is expected to spearhead a new anti-corruption campaign.
The son of a senior Communist Party member and revolutionary hero who was later purged from the party, Xi studied chemical engineering at the prestigious Tsinghua University.
After graduating, he rose through the ranks. He also has some military experience: he served as secretary to vice premier and Central Military Commission secretary-general, Geng Biao, his father's former subordinate.
Xi, 59, is married to celebrity Peng Liyuan, a famous Chinese People's Liberation Army singer. US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks in 2010 described Xi as "a fan of Hollywood World War II movies," and quoted him as saying that Chinese moviemakers neglect "values they should promote."
Unlike Xi, 57-year-old Li is not from an elite family, he worked as a manual laborer on a rural commune before getting a university degree and rising through the ranks of the Communist Youth League.
The former Henan province governor looks every inch the self-made man. During his time as governor, Henan suffered three major fires that killed more than 400 people over 1999 – 2000. That earned him the nickname "Three-Fires Li" and something of a reputation for bad luck.
Nevertheless, he is also known for making the province, which has a population of 100 million, more attractive for investment. Li is married to professor of English at the Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing, Cheng Hong.
It had been unclear whether outgoing President Hu, 69, would retain all his positions and leadership of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Military Commission (CMC) in particular.
His predecessor, Jiang Zemin, kept the post for a full two years after giving up the party leadership in 2002. However, on November 15, China's Xinhua news agency reported that Xi had been named chairman of the CMC, with Fan Changlong and Xu Qilang appointed vice chairmen.
A broader reshuffle among the country's top brass was already under way by the time this announcement came, as China's People's Liberation Army undergoes its own leadership transition. General Chang Wanquan, is slated to replace General Liang Guanglie as Defense Minister.
Recently-named Chief of the General Staff General Fang Fenghui, 61, "perhaps best exemplifies the new generation of professionally savvy officers," who reportedly once impressed Hu at a 2009 parade, Dr Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, wrote last week. He pointed out that Fang is also a noted author on military strategy.
But it is not "all-change," for the forces, as the incumbent Navy Commander Wu Shengli will most likely retain his post.
China's new leaders will inherit problems ranging from economic slowdown and corruption to territorial disputes. Although corruption charges carry the death penalty in China, it remains a pressing issue.
Over 3,500 officials from the Communist Party of China were punished for taking bribes in 2010-2011, Xinhua news agency reported last month.
One Politburo hopeful Bo Xilai was stripped of his parliamentary seat and purged from the Party after his wife was convicted of poisoning a British entrepreneur over a business dispute. Bo now faces corruption charges.
President Hu has urged stronger measures to rein in corruption, publicly acknowledging its scale.
A slowing economy and growing gap between the rich and poor do not offer the most auspicious backdrop for a new government anti-corruption drive. According to the Conference Board Global Economic Outlook released this week China's annual growth is expected slow gradually over the next decade.
Chinese GDP growth slowed from 9.3 percent in 2011 to 7.4 percent in the third quarter of this year. It is forecast to fall to an average of 5.5 percent in 2013–2018 and 3.7 percent in 2019–2025, the research said.
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