China Unveils New Leaders, With Xi at Head

Posted November 15th, 2012 at 1:35 am (UTC-5)
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Xi Jinping has been named the new leader of China, taking over as general secretary of the country's ruling Communist Party and chair of its powerful military commission.

Vice President Xi, who was long expected to take control of the party from outgoing President Hu Jintao, was at the head of a leadership lineup of six other men who marched onto the stage of Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Thursday.

Together they will make up the Politburo Standing Committee, China's most powerful decision-making body. The other members include premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang, North Korean-trained economist Zhang Dejiang, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng and Tanjian party boss Zhang Gaoli.

Xi, who will take over as president in March, told reporters Thursday that the new leadership faces “enormous responsibility” but would fight for a better life for China's 1.3 billion people. He acknowledged the party must address several problems, including corruption and being out of touch with the people. But he says it also must continue reforming and opening up.

The son of a revered revolutionary leader, the 59-year-old leader takes control of the world's second biggest economy at a time of major challenges, including slowing economic growth and widening public anger at government corruption.

The unveiling of of the new Standing Committee revealed the long-awaited outcome of a secretive process in which China's main power brokers jockeyed to secure senior positions for themselves and their allies. The two main factions include loyalists of Mr. Hu, who became party chief in 2002, and allies of his predecessor Jiang Zemin, who retains influence in the Chinese leadership.

The number of the committee was reduced from nine to seven, as many had speculated. Observers say the smaller number could make it easier for the leaders reach consensus on issues ranging from fighting corruption to spurring economic growth.

Security remained tight in Beijing as the week-long meeting of the 18th Communist Party Congress wrapped up. Authorities have taken extraordinary steps to prevent government criticism and clamp down on dissent to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

The lead-up to the transition was overshadowed by a scandal involving senior politician Bo Xilai, who is under investigation for covering up his wife's murder of a British businessman. Bo, a former Politburo member, had been expected to take a top spot at the leadership transition.