BEIJING – Xi Jinping became China’s new leader today, assuming the top posts in the Communist Party and the powerful military in a political transition unbowed by scandals, a slower economy and public demands for reforms.
Xi was introduced as the new party general secretary at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People a day after the close of a weeklong party congress that underlined the communists’ determination to remain firmly in power. He and the six other men who will form China’s new collective leadership, all dressed in dark suits, walked in a line onto the red-carpeted stage.
Xi’s appointment as chairman of the military commission, announced by the state Xinhua News Agency, marked a break from the recent tradition of retiring leaders holding onto the post for a transitional period to extend their influence. It meant outgoing leader Hu Jintao would relinquish all positions of power, giving Xi broader leeway to consolidate his authority.
The once-a-decade leadership change was carefully choreographed. It became clear Xi would lead China five years ago, when he was appointed to the Standing Committee – the nation’s apex of power – as the highest-ranked member who would not be of retirement age this year.
Xi’s colleagues in the new Standing Committee are Li Keqiang, the presumptive premier and chief economic official; Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang; Shanghai party secretary Yu Zhengsheng; propaganda chief Liu Yunshan; Vice Premier Wang Qishan; and Tianjin party secretary Zhang Gaoli.
In a speech broadcast live on Chinese state TV, Xi said, “We shall do everything we can to live up to your trust and fulfill our mission.”
The son of a party elder, and vice president for the past five years, Xi will lead the world’s No. 2 economy and newest diplomatic and military power amid increasingly vocal calls for economic and political reform – including from within the 82-million-member party itself. At ease in front of people and with colleagues, Xi takes over the party leadership from the stiff, technocratic Hu, and is expected to assume the largely ceremonial presidency in March.