The Guardian-Xi Jinping took the reins of both the Communist party and the military in China on Thursday morning, before introducing the broadly conservative team who will lead the country with him.
The presentation of the seven men in dark suits, at a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, offered little encouragement to the growing numbers pressing for economic, social and particularly political reforms in China.
It was only the second orderly transition in the more than six decades since the founding of the People’s Republic by revolutionaries including Xi’s father. But it has been preceded by months of turbulence and sharp-elbowed political manoeuvrings.
After five years as heir apparent, 59-year-old Xi gave a confident performance as he introduced his colleagues to the waiting media. The message was one of a clean start, with the outgoing leader, Hu Jintao, giving up the chairmanship of the central military commission immediately; his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, took two years to do so.
Xi will be first among equals in the top decision-making body. Li Keqiang, who will replace Wen Jiabao as premier, has already served one term on the committee with him.
It has been cut from nine members to seven, apparently to make decision-making more effective.
Some think that may prove harder than expected because Jiang’s influence has helped to win more places than expected for his proteges. But others say it is hard to draw a straight line between personal networks and policy choices or even between an individual’s approach to different areas of policy; some of the new members are seen as financial modernisers even if politically conservative.
The new body includes conservative figures such as Zhang Dejiang, who trained in economics in North Korea, and the propaganda official Liu Yunshan.
The other members are Yu Zhensheng, party chief in Jiang’s stronghold of Shanghai, Zhang Gaoli, in charge of Tianjin, and Wang Qishan, who has taken the discipline portfolio. That move has been variously interpreted as a sign that the party will get tough on abuses after years of promising to do so or an attempt to ensure his financial expertise does not lead to him overshadowing Li when the latter becomes premier.
Crucially, two leaders seen as more sympathetic to reform, the Guangdong party secretary, Wang Yang, and organisation department head, Li Yuanchao, failed to reach the top body.
Source: The Guardian