President Xi takes reins

By Yang Jingjie Source:Global Times Published: 2013-3-15 1:23:01


Newly-elected Chinese President <a href=Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with his predecessor " src="">
Newly-elected Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with his predecessor Hu Jintao after the presidential election during the 12th National People's Congress on Thursday. Xi was also elected chairman of the country's Central Military Commission. Photo: Xinhua 

China's top legislature Thursday elected Xi Jinping as president of the country, capping off his appointments as chief of the Party, state and military following a once-in-a-decade leadership transition.

Nearly 3,000 deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) voted for Xi, 59, who was also elected chairman of the country's Central Military Commission.

The NPC elected Li Yuanchao, 62, former head of the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, as vice president of the country.

Zhang Dejiang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, was elected chairman of the NPC Standing Committee.

Xi's election marked another smooth leadership transition in the wake of last year's scandal embroiling former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai.

Xi became the general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission last November, signaling the first synchronized transition of the two posts in the Party's history.

His predecessor, Hu Jintao, took over the Party chief post from Jiang Zemin in 2002, succeeding the top military post two years later.

Zheng Yongnian, a longtime political observer and director of the East Asian Institute under the National University of Singapore, told the Global Times that Hu made a major contribution by quitting the two jobs, setting an example for his successors and avoiding fragmentation of power in the country.

"This means Xi can immediately set his policy agenda and pursue it instead of waiting for years. His power consolidation has come at much earlier time," said Zheng.

Xu Xing, a professor of politics with the Zhou Enlai School of Government at Nankai University, told the Global Times that Xi's control of the three key posts reflects the country's philosophy of democratic centralism, and strengthens the administrative effectiveness.

After years of double-digit economic growth, Xi takes over an economy that is undergoing structural adjustments and a country that is facing mounting pressure from the public, who have demonstrated growing intolerance toward social inequality, corruption and pollution.

Since taking the post of Party chief last November, Xi has made gestures to respond to social concerns and consolidated his image as a man of the people.

He visited the southern city of Shenzhen to exhibit determination in pushing forward economic reforms, while also vowing to fight corruption at all levels of government. The central authority also rolled out measures to combat extravagance and formalism.

Moves taken by Xi and the central authority have won applause from the public and lifted their expectations for the government's future performance, Xu said, but he noted measures taken to combat extravagance targeted symptoms of corruption, rather than the cause.

Xu pinpointed bold political reforms as the best approach to tackle challenges, adding that greater public participation in political affairs in an orderly manner and supervision of the government are also essential.

Observers have expressed skepticism toward how bold moves will be to foster changes, though the new central leadership has repeatedly stressed the importance of reforms.

Zheng said China's leadership is well aware that political reforms have to be taken for the survival of the Party. "Development and political reforms are the two sides of a coin, with both having equal importance," he said.

However, Zheng stressed political reforms defined by Chinese leaders covered fighting corruption, restructuring the administrative branch and intra-Party and consultative democracy, rather than Western democracy.

While handling domestic challenges, Xi also inherits a country facing regional uncertainties.

The US pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, a defiant North Korea with its nuclear ambitions and growing territorial disputes with neighboring countries have all made China's external environment complex.

Shen Dingli, a deputy head of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times that the country's political and security strengths are still limited compared to its economic might. The main focus is on whether China's diplomacy will still "keep a low profile," Shen said.

During a group study in late January, Xi said China would never abandon its core interests, while stressing the country will stick to its path of peaceful development.

Shen said what the president implied was "prudent and smart use" of its hard power associated with the country's growing confidence.

Under Xi's leadership, the country should proceed steadily in its diplomacy and create stability with other parties' cooperation, said Shen.

"Stability is not achieved by surrendering our interests or resorting to the use of hard power. Rather, it's from making others willing to compromise as a result of smart deterrence," he said.

Xi is expected to pay his first overseas visit to Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo, and attend the BRICS summit in Durban.


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