China’s National People’s Congress yesterday formally elected Xi Jinping (習近平) president, completing the nation’s second orderly political succession since the Communist Party took power in 1949.
The largely rubber-stamp congress chose Xi in a tightly scripted ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, putting the final seal of approval on a generational transition of power.
Xi was appointed party and military chief — where real power lies — in November last year.
The 59-year-old was also elected head of the Central Military Commission, a parallel government post to the party’s top military position which he already holds, ensuring that he has full power over the party, state and armed forces. There was virtually no opposition among the carefully selected representatives to Xi becoming president. Xi drew just one no vote and three abstentions from the almost 3,000 delegates.
Xi bowed deeply and shook hands with his predecessor, Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), upon the announcement of the result, carried live on state television. Xi and Hu exchanged a few inaudible words.
Li Yuanchao (李源潮) was also elected vice president.
Vice Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) is set to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) in a similarly scripted vote today.
Hu, 70, relinquished the presidency after serving the maximum two five-year terms.
Since taking up the much more powerful post of party chief in November last year, Xi has focused on fighting corruption and promoting austere practices such as banning senior military officers from holding alcohol-fueled banquets.
Many Chinese hope Xi will bring change in a country that has risen to become the world’s second-biggest economy, but is marred by deepening income inequality, corruption and environmental destruction left over from the administration of Hu and Wen.
For Yan Chengzhong, a delegate to the legislature, the most pressing task for Xi’s government is to clean up the environment.
“I come from Shanghai, where there are 6,000 dead pigs floating in the river. It speaks to how fragile the ecological environment is,” said Yan, who said he had submitted a proposal to the legislature urging government transparency on the environment.
Meanwhile, Gong Funeng, a delegate from Sichuan Province, said: “The most challenging problem that the government faces now is on implementing political reform and fighting corruption.”