Friday, March 15, 2013

Change of Reigns in China: Xi Jinping Takes Over as Country’s President, Military Commission Chief; Li Keqiang Becomes Nation’s Premier

Xi Jinping emerged as China's most powerful leader in decades after he was named President and head of the powerful Military Commission on March 14. He was also named chief of the ruling Communist Party, smoothly completing a 10-yearly transition of power in the world's second-largest economy. Officially, Xi is being elected for a five-year term, but barring extraordinary events the 59-year-old president will hold the position for a decade.

In addition to being the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which effectively rules the country, Xi has been appointed as the chairman of the powerful Military Commission, when he was elected as the new leader of the party in November 2012.
According to an official announcement here, Xi was elected as president by 3,000-strong National People’s Congress, which also endorsed his appointment as the chairman of the Military Commission.

The Military Commission supervises 2.3 million-strong and the world’s largest standing army called People’s Liberation Army (PLA), incorporating Army, Navy and Air Force.

Xi’s election a formality as the NPC, dominated by the CPC functionaries completed the once-in-a-decade power transfer from the administration headed by Hu, 70, who along with team of leaders including premier Wen Jiabao formally retires.

With today’s election Xi has emerged as the most powerful leader in China as heads the country, CPC and the Military.

The NPC also elected Li Yuanchao, a reformist and Politburo member of the CPC, as vice president. Yi who was reportedly picked by Xi ignoring pressures within the factions to energize the economic reform process to revitalize slowing economy.

Widely regarded as smooth transfer of power, Xi along with seven member standing committee of the CPC which virtually rules the country completed over 100 days in the leadership running various public campaigns against corruption, austerity both in the government and military and revamping the administration by cutting down size of cabinet.

Election of New Prime Minister

China’s annual Parliament confirmed Li Keqiang as the country’s new prime minister to replace Wen Jiabao on March 15, who retires after a decade in the post. Approximately 3,000 delegates to the National People’s Congress, the ruling Communist Party’s nominal state Parliament, endorsed Li’s recommendation by the party.

Li was nominated to the Congress by state president. He won 99.7 per cent of the 2,949 votes counted, with just three votes against him and six abstentions

Profile of New President

Xi is the son of one of China's most esteemed generals and known as a "princeling", the name given to relations of China's first generation of Communist leaders, who grew up immersed in the ruling party's upper echelons. But he has threatened to target not only lowly "flies" but also top-ranking "tigers" in corruption crackdowns, warning that graft could "kill the party".

Born in Beijing in 1953, Xi Jinping is the son of revolutionary veteran Xi Zhongxun, one of the Communist Party's founding fathers.

Xi Zhongxun was purged from the post of vice-premier in 1962 prior to the Cultural Revolution and eventually imprisoned.

The younger Xi was then sent aged 15 to work in the remote village of Liangjiahe for seven years, like most other "intellectual youth" of the time.

A local village official who knew Xi at that time described him as "very sincere and honest", adding that he was just like one of them "so everybody liked him very much".

Xi has acknowledged that this time spent working alongside villagers was a key experience for him.

He went on to study chemical engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing, which has produced many of China's current top leaders, including Hu Jintao.

Accepted into the party in 1974, Xi served as a local party secretary in Hebei province and then went on to ever more senior roles in Fujian and then Zhejiang provinces.

He was named party chief of Shanghai in 2007 when its former chief, Chen Liangyu, was sacked over corruption charges. Shortly after, he was promoted to the party's Standing Committee and became vice-president in 2008.

Challenges Ahead

In November 2012, in his first speech to the Communist Party’s elite Politburo,.Xi denounced the prevalence of corruption and said officials needed to guard against its spread or it would “doom the party and the state.”

In following month of the same,. Xi made his first trip outside of Beijing with a visit to special economic zone of Shenzhen in south China that has stood as a symbol of the nation’s embrace of a state-led form of capitalism. Xi’s trip was seen as a strong signal of support for greater market-oriented economic policies.

The new Chinese president is well-traveled and intimately familiar with the West. His daughter attends Harvard, and he is said to enjoy Hollywood films about the Second World War.

Hu, a onetime hydroelectric power technician, worked his way up through jobs in China’s hardscrabble interior. The new Chinese president is the son of a Communist Party aristocrat, Xi Zhongxun, who was present at the birth of China’s turn to capitalism and helped develop the special economic zone of Shenzhen.


The Presidency coupled with the post of the chairman of the Military Commission which supervises 2.3 million-strong world's largest standing military, People's Liberation Army (PLA), gives him a head start to begin his 10-year stint in power.Hu got the post of head of the military from Jiang Zemin two years after he took over as the president.

While retiring, Hu ensured that the head of the country and the party has single power structure to ensure stability. Seen as having a zero-tolerance attitude towards corrupt officials, Xi has twice been drafted in to trouble-shoot major problems.

In Fujian, he helped to clear up a corruption scandal in the late 1990s which involved the jailed smuggling kingpin Lai Changxing.

Xi takes charge at a time when the public is looking for leadership that can address sputtering economic growth and mounting anger over widespread graft, high-handed officialdom and increasing unfairness. A growth-at-all-costs model that defined the outgoing administration's era has befouled the country's air, waterways and soil, adding another serious threat to social stability.

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