Xi Jinping rises to take presidency in Beijing
AP and dpaBEIJING -- China's new leader Xi Jinping (習近平) capped his rise Thursday by adding the largely ceremonial title of president, though he will need cautious maneuvering to consolidate his power and build support from a public that is increasingly clamoring for change.
March 15, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
The elevation of Xi to the presidency by the rubberstamp national legislature gave him the last of the three titles held by his predecessor, Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). The move was expected after Xi was named head of the Communist Party and chairman of its military, positions of true power, last November in a once-a-decade handover to a new group of leaders that has been years in the making.
“I'm very happy. With President Xi leading us, China will be more prosperous and more powerful,” said Zhang Rihong, chairwoman of a real estate company from northeastern Heilongjiang province who joined nearly 3,000 fellow delegates to the National People's Congress in Beijing's cavernous, red-carpeted Great Hall of the People.
“This is welcomed by all,” she said.
Though Xi is now formally in charge, big challenges remain for him within the party's top ranks — in which powerful people are often divided by patronage, ideology or financial interests.
This will be doubly so if he follows through on his pledge to tackle the endemic graft he has pinpointed as detrimental to the party's survival, said Willy Lam, a China politics watcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Graft is deeply ingrained in the party's patronage-based culture and those at the top — many of whose families have benefited from their political connections — are believed to be most resistant to anti-corruption measures that diminish their prerogatives.
Xi's accession marks only the second orderly transfer of power in more than six decades of Communist Party rule. He was the only candidate for president in Thursday's ballot in the country's figurehead parliament. The delegates voted 2,952-to-1 for Xi in balloting that amounts to a political ritual echoing the decisions of the party leadership. Three delegates abstained.
After the result was announced, Xi bowed to delegates and turned to Hu, seated on his right. The two of them shook hands and posed for photos.
Xi, 59, also was appointed chairman of the government commission that oversees the military.
Named vice president in a vote of 2,839-80 was Li Yuanchao (李源潮), a liberal-minded reformer and a close ally of Hu for decades. The move breaks with the practice of recent years, because Li is not in the party's seven-member ruling inner sanctum. It is seen as a concession to Hu's lingering influence and as a reward to a capable if not wholly popular official.
The congress is expected to approve Vice Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), the party's official number two, as China's new state premier on Friday, succeeding Wen Jiabao.
On Thursday, the parliament appointed Zhang Dejiang (張德江) as chairman of its standing committee.
Zhang, 66, ranks third in the party's hierarchy behind Xi and Li Keqiang. He replaced the disgraced Bo Xilai as leader of the Chongqing region in March last year and is regarded as the party's firefighter.
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.
Newly elected Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao (李源潮) acknowledges applause from delegates during the 12th National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, ...
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