Xi becomes President; emerges as China`s most powerful leader
Beijing: Xi Jinping on Thursday emerged as China`s most powerful leader in decades after he was named President and head of the powerful military, besides being the chief of the ruling Communist Party, smoothly completing a 10-yearly transition of power in the world`s second-largest economy.
The 3,000-member strong China`s Parliament, the National People Congress, elected 59-year-old Xi as President and the Chairman of the Military Commission, four months after he took over as the General Secretary of the Communist Party.
Xi succeeded Hu Jintao, 70, and unlike his predecessor who in 2003 started his tenure as party chief and President, he has all the three offices - party, Army and state - through which he is likely to wield power for the next decade.
During today`s election, Xi was the only candidate for president in the country`s rubber stamp Parliament.
Xi bowed to the delegates after his name was announced. He was elected by 2,952 votes to one, with three abstentions.
The Presidency coupled with the post of the Chairman of Military Commission which supervises 2.3 million-strong world`s largest standing military, People`s Liberation Army, 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.
Also Xi is the lone civilian member of the Military Commission dominated by top military officials of all the three forces. During Hu`s era, Xi, as the Vice President, was also Vice Chairman of Military Commission.
Backed by powerful PLA, Xi has already began asserting his power by getting Li Yuanchao, a reformist and Politburo member, elected as Vice-President overruling the opposition from powerful faction headed by former President Jiang.
According to the speculation, Xi picked Li, 62, ignoring pressure to get party propagandist Liu Yunshan elected.
Li`s appointment ensures that Xi, who has been canvassing to bring about a new momentum for economic reforms, has two strong reformists at the helm of the world`s most populous nation.
Another pro-reformer and economist Li Keqiang, 57, who is elected as the number two leader of the CPC, will be chosen as the Premier tomorrow to succeed Wen Jiabao.
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 office running public campaigns against corruption, austerity both in the government and military and revamping the administration by cutting down cabinet`s size.
Xi apparently was keen to have more reformers at the helm as the world`s second-largest economy slowed down considerably in the last three years contracting from over 11 percent GDP to 7.8 last year. The government has fixed 7.5 percent as target this year.
The slowing growth due to global downturn coupled with corruption poses a major challenge for Xi. The crisis has the potential to threaten the 64-year-long rule of the party.
The new leadership is taking power when China is poised to turn its export oriented economy to the one dependent more on domestic consumption, which experts say is a daunting task.
A graduate in Chemical Engineering from the prestigious Tsinghua University, Xi, the son of a veteran political leader instrumental in the progress of China`s revolution, served in a remote mountain village before he climbed up the ranks.
Besides being princeling, Xi became well known in China after he married Peng Liyuan, a famous Chinese folk singer.
Like many Chinese leaders, Xi is also an enigma with very little known about his views except his famous quote that "I ate a lot more bitterness than most people".
He apparently said this refuting criticism that he was a "princeling" or a "hereditary" communist.
Xi will also face major challenges in Tibet and Xinjiang, the minority dominated provinces which showed increasing signs of alienation in recent years.
A new policy of reconciliation was awaited in Tibet where over 100 people committed self immolations in recent months. Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama said he is hopeful that Xi would come out with new initiatives to solve the issue.
In Xinjiang, Uygurs Muslims were up in arms against the settlement of Hans and China has deployed large number of armed forces to quell the violent movement headed by East Turkistan Islamic Movement.
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