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Special> NPC & CPPCC Sessions 2013> News
UPDATED: March 17, 2013
China Completes Largest State Leadership Transition of Last Decade

With photos of China's new president, premier and top legislator shaking hands with their respective predecessors appearing on front pages, China has completed the largest transition of state leadership to take place in the last decade, ushering in a new era.

Xi Jinping, head of the Communist Party of China (CPC), was elected state president and chairman of the country's Central Military Commission (CMC) Thursday at an annual parliamentary session held in Beijing.

Xi's nomination of Li Keqiang as the premier of the State Council, China's cabinet, was approved one day later by nearly 3,000 deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC).

Meanwhile, deputies representing over 1.3 billion people elected leaders and members of the NPC Standing Committee, as well as the state vice president, CMC vice presidents, and heads of the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body, has also elected its new leadership.

Cheng Li, director of research at the John L. Thornton China Center of the Brookings Institution, said the formation of a new state leadership concludes a once-a-decade power transfer that was initiated at the CPC national congress held on November.

The CPC congress elected a new Central Committee, which then elected a new top CPC leadership, including Xi as its general secretary and its central military commission chairman.

Sun Xianzhong, an NPC deputy and legal scholar who cast ballots at the session, described the leadership change as "steady and transparent."

Analysts say the new leadership, which is now overseeing the world's most populous country and the second-largest economy, is a team that will take China to a higher level of development.

Because they have grass-roots working experience, "they know the national condition from first-hand experience and can feel the people's needs," Sun said.

According to Li, the new leadership is diverse. They come from different political parties with different academic backgrounds. Some of them even have overseas education experience.

Moreover, analysts say the completion of the leadership transition shows that the CPC has made another significant step in achieving the institutionalization and standardization of the transfer of power.

A smooth and stable power transfer is of paramount importance for the long-term prosperity and stability of China, according to them.

The CPC abolished lifetime tenures in the 1980s. The constitution imposes a limit of two consecutive terms for the posts of state president, premier and top legislator, as well as deputy positions within the state, the central government and the NPC Standing Committee.

"In contrast to a power transfer accompanied by social turbulence in some other countries, China has done it with a growing economy and stable society," said Huang Renwei, a historian with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Analysts say the transfer bears testimony to a distinguishing feature of socialist democracy in China that integrates the leadership of the CPC and the position of the people as masters of the country and the rule of law.

This integration is crucial because it can ensure that the people's congress can make decisions and laws based on the country's fundamental, long-term and overall interests, they say.

The CPC Central Committee made an overall consideration when arranging the personnel changeover at the 18th CPC National Congress and recommended candidates for state leaders to the ongoing legislative session's presidium.

Besides strict political and professional qualifications, the CPC Central Committee had also considered whether the candidates would meet the requirements of the positions and improve the leadership's lineup, said Liu Yunshan, a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, at a presidium meeting held on Tuesday.

At the meeting, the presidium decided to table candidate lists for the state leadership to NPC delegations for discussion and consultation. Based on a majority opinion from feedback, the presidium determined the final candidate lists, which were later presented to full sessions for a vote. A given candidate needs over half of all votes to be elected or endorsed.

The new leadership will run a central government that was streamlined at the legislative session. Under a previously approved cabinet restructuring plan, the number of ministries will fall from 27 to 25, while several departments and agencies will be reorganized.

While it marks the seventh attempt in the past three decades to roll back red tape and reduce administrative intervention in the market and on social issues, analyst say it is the beginning of the new leadership's reform.

Prof. Pierre Defraigne, executive director of the Madariaga - College of Europe Foundation, said responsiveness to rising demands from the civil society, rigorous communist ethics and success in a fair sharing of wealth will be the keys to the political legitimacy of the CPC.

"The challenge for the CPC in the next decade will be altogether trying," Defraigne said.

Li said new Chinese leaders must harvest public support in pushing forward economic reforms. With the power transfer concluded, issues like enlarging the middle class, urbanization and the development of the service industry should all appear on the government's top agenda.

There was widespread agreement during the legislative session, which will end on Sunday, that China is still confronted with a number of difficulties, including regional and urban-rural disparities, pressures on the environment and social conflicts.

"China faces a complex domestic and external situation and challenges are in no short supply for the new leadership. But the introspective leaders have been crystal-clear about these problems," said Sun. "I believe they are capable of leading the Chinese people in achieving economic and social development goals."

(Xinhua News Agency March 16, 2013)

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