Xi and six allies, rivals take helm in Beijing

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Xi and six allies, rivals take helm in Beijing


The new leadership of China’s ruling Communist Party, which will steer the world’s second-largest economy for the next five years, shows itself yesterday with Vice President Xi Jinping, fourth from left, taking over from outgoing President Hu Jintao as party chief. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

China’s president-in-waiting Xi Jinping won a strong mandate yesterday to lead the world’s second-largest economy and deal with problems ranging from corruption to economic uncertainty.

Xi was appointed head of both the ruling Communist Party and its top military body as the ruling Communist Party unveiled a new leadership lineup consisting of conservatives and respected financial reformers.

In an address at the end of the party’s once-every-five-years congress, Xi said he understood the people’s desire for a better life but warned of severe challenges going forward.

“Our party is dedicated to serving the people,” he said after introducing the other six members of the standing committee at the Great Hall of the People in a carefully choreographed ceremony.

“But we are not complacent, and we will never rest on our laurels. Under the new conditions, our party faces many severe challenges, and there are also many pressing problems within the party that need to be resolved, particularly corruption, being divorced from the people, going through formalities and bureaucracy caused by some party officials.”

According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the six officials to lead the nation of 1.3 billion with Xi are: Li Keqiang, the current vice premier who will succeed Premier Wen Jiabao, and Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli. The new members of the standing committee were unveiled after a closed-door vote by the party’s new 205-member Central Committee yesterday during the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party.

The new team will take over in March at the annual meeting of parliament.

Analysts predicted there will be no major changes in the relationship between Korea and China, which celebrated 20 years of diplomatic ties last August, as result of the new leadership.

They said that the leadership will be more focused on dealing with domestic affairs and will want to maintain the status quo on the Korean Peninsula.

“I think the first tasks Xi has to deal with are domestic,” said Willy Lam, professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Foremost among them are ways and means to restructure the economy - and to find new growth areas.”

Lam said reliance on exports and government investments “cannot work forever. Manufacturing is no longer cheap in the world’s factory.”

Xi will be steering China for at least the next five years with a mixed team, including the urbane, English-speaking Li Keqiang and North Korea-trained economist Zhang Dejiang. That could make undertaking the kind of reforms China so desperately needs, whether financial or social, much harder.

“The leadership is divided,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a Chinese politics expert at Hong Kong Baptist University. “It’s easier for them to move to a new growth model. I think they agree upon that and that won’t be the hardest task. But I see a lot of political paralysis in terms of changing the political system.”

Still, the standing committee has been cut to seven members from nine, which should ease consensus building.

“All seven members of the standing committee have visited [South] Korea at least once,” a diplomatic source said, “which can be interpreted as a sign the next administration will most likely appreciate cooperation with Seoul. In the previous committee, there were only three or four.”

“South Korea-China relations depend on our government’s policies toward the North,” said Hong Hyun-ik, an analyst at the Sejong Institute.

By Lee Eun-joo, Reuters [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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