China to reveal new leaders Thursday

November 12, 2012 12:39 pm


China’s Communist Party Congress in Beijing will wrap up on Wednesday/AFP
BEIJING, Nov 12 – China’s Communist Party will on Thursday unveil the new set of top leaders who will run the country for the next decade, one day after its week-long congress ends, officials said Monday.

The widely expected timing was confirmed to AFP by staff organising press coverage of the congress under way in Beijing, which is held every five years.

President Hu Jintao, who has been in power ten years, is widely expected to hand over the reins of the ruling party to his vice president, Xi Jinping.

The leadership — decided in back-room horse-trading between party factions — is revealed to the nation when members of the Politburo Standing Committee march out in a line before the cameras at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Party staff told AFP the new standing committee, now consisting of nine members, would “meet the press” on Thursday. The party had thus far not officially confirmed the timing.

Xi is widely expected to march out in first position on the committee, indicating he is the new party leader. He will then formally be named the country’s president next March by China’s rubber-stamp parliament.

Xi’s fellow standing committee member, Vice Premier Li Keqiang, is also strongly expected to move up in the committee’s pecking order and be put on track to be named premier in March, replacing incumbent Wen Jiabao.

They would take over at a challenging time when the powerhouse economy is suffering a rare slowdown and there are growing demands for change from the country’s vocal netizens.

If things go according to tradition, Xi and Li would expect to be in office for 10 years.

However, the standing committee is typically tweaked each five years with a shuffling of lower-ranking members. The membership of the rest of the committee to be unveiled Thursday remains a matter of speculation.

In a speech opening the congress last Thursday, Hu extolled the country’s achievements during his term. But he also delivered stark warnings about the need to address festering problems of corruption, environmental degradation and public pressure for democracy.

He said corruption could prove “fatal” to the party and even cause its collapse, adding that the all-powerful party must change China’s “political structure and make the people’s democracy more extensive”.

Such warnings by top leaders are not new and are often meant to assuage public anger. But critics say little actual progress has been made on such problems and the party’s iron-clad control on politics has strengthened under Hu.

Authorities are careful to prevent anything upsetting the carefully stage-managed proceedings in Beijing. Hundreds of activists have been put under house arrest in the lead-up to the congress, rights groups say.

A range of other security measures also have been put in place in the capital, such as ordering taxi drivers to lock their back windows — apparently to prevent passengers from throwing out flyers with political messages.


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