November 15, 2012 (TSR-Xinhua) – A new generation of top Chinese leaders took the stage on Thursday in one of the world’s most important power transitions, taking the helm of the ruling party of the world’s second-largest economy and the most populous country.
Xi Jinping was sworn in as general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), leading the seven-seat Political Bureau Standing Committee.
The other six members of the top leadership of the Party’s central leading organ are Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli.
READ XI JINPING’S FULL SPEECH IN ENGLISH
They were elected at the first plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee following the CPC’s 18th National Congress. Their election marked a smooth top leadership transition following the 16th national congresses of the Party in 2002.
The smooth transition suggests that the Party is moving steadily towards an established norm regarding the handing over of power, which will be crucial for sustained stability and development of the country, analysts observed.
“The new leaders are not ossified or conservative. Their election will ensure that China will continue with both reforms and the socialist path with Chinese characteristics, as they have witnessed, participated in and benefited from reform and opening-up,” said Xie Chuntao, a professor of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.
The leaders made their debut upon their election at the Great Hall of the People under the spotlight of hundreds of reporters from across the world.
Xi said they will take “the relay baton passed on to us by history” and make continued efforts to achieve the renewal of the Chinese nation.
“We will rally and lead the whole Party and the people in making continued efforts to free our minds, carry out reform and open up,” Xi said.
Xi noted that the Party faces many severe challenges and that there are many pressing problems within the Party, citing corruption, a separation from the people and bureaucracy.
Amid global economic uncertainties and domestic complaints over the wealth gap, corruption and environmental woes with rising calls for deepened reform, analysts said China will face more challenges in the years to come.
FROM THE PEOPLE
The seven Standing Committee members of the Political Bureau have witnessed and endured China’s vicissitudes and hardships over the last six decades, including the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
Xi and Li were born in the 1950s, while the other five were born in the mid- to late 1940s.
Xi, Li, Zhang Dejiang and Wang toiled in communes and villages during the Cultural Revolution, when millions of high school graduates were sent to rural areas to receive “re-education” from peasants and help with rural development.
It was during their re-education that Xi and Li received their first official titles. Acting as the Party branch secretaries of their respective production brigades, they got the chance to learn administration at the grassroots level.
Yu worked as a technician at a radio factory in the city of Zhangjiakou in north China’s Hebei province for a few years, while Liu was a teacher before becoming a reporter at the Xinhua News Agency. Zhang Gaoli was a craneman and loader at an oil company in south China’s Guangdong province after graduating from university.
Such experiences, analysts observed, gave them keen insight into China’s situation and helped them understand the people’s woes and expectations.
Xi previously said that he received a great deal of guidance from two groups of people: the old generation of revolutionaries and the village people in Shaanxi, his ancestral home where he received seven years of “re-education.”
As observed by Professor Xie, the new generation of leaders have shown “capacity in controlling overall situations and tackling complicated emergencies” and “are well prepared for challenges and ready to take opportunities.”
All of them boast rich governance experience, climbing the Party cadre echelon step by step.
Over his 40-year-long career, Xi left his footprint in both the comparatively underdeveloped inland and rural areas, such as a commune in Shaanxi province and Zhengding county in Hebei province, as well as the more prosperous coastal Fujian and Zhejiang provinces and the country’s financial and economic hub of Shanghai.
Most of the new leaders have experience in governing frontier regions for reform, while others are familiar with the situation in underdeveloped central and west regions.
Analysts said the lineup will help the collective leadership to consider matters from an overall perspective when making decisions.
In addition, as a result of long years of experience as local governors, they have also cultivated a down-to-earth work style.
“Do it now” is Xi’s motto. He always warns officials to perform services while keeping in mind that their official titles are in the hands of the people, instead of within their own grasp.
THEORETICAL GROUNDING, GLOBAL VISION
Unlike their predecessors, the new leaders grew up in a peaceful time, which offered them a chance to receive better education than previous generations.
Notably, they received a complete and systematic education on the mainstream ideology of socialism, which had a formative effect on their views and values, said Dai Yanjun, a professor with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.
The seven leaders have diverse higher learning backgrounds, varying from engineering to humanities.
Xi holds a doctorate of law from the prestigious Qinghua University, where he also received education in chemical engineering after he returned to Beijing from Shaanxi.
Li studied law at the elite Beijing University after he ended “re-education” in Anhui province. He later received a doctoral degree of economics from the university.
These education opportunities equipped the leaders with a firm theoretical grounding.
Xi has urged officials at various levels to “read some history” and learn to “seek the correct orientation and path from history.”
As witnesses and participants in ongoing globalization, the new leaders also have a broad vision and know how to deal with the international community.
Xi Jinping made a successful visit to the United States in Feburary this year. In a written interview with the Washington Post before his tour, the vice president said, “The vast Pacific Ocean has ample space for China and the United States.”
As vice premier, Li Keqiang visited the three European nations of Spain, Germany and Britain in January 2011. Prior to his visits, he wrote three articles that were published in influential newspapers in the countries, stating China’s development orientation.
Another vice premier, Wang Qishan was described by former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson as a man who “enjoys philosophical debates and has a wicked sense of humor.”
According to the CPC’s constitution, a Central Committee is elected at a national congress, which is held every five years. The Central Committee, usually with more than 300 full and alternate members, then elects its Political Bureau and the bureau’s Standing Committee.
More than 2,300 delegates to the national congress on Wednesday elected the 18th CPC Central Committee through secret ballots, who then voted on the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee on Thursday.
Previously, a meeting of leading cadres was held in Beijing in May to nominate candidates of the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee.
In the eyes of Huang Yebin, a delegate to the Party congress, the new generation of leadership are “energetic, trustworthy and with both integrity and capacity.”
“I’m sure they will lead the nation to a prosperous society,” Huang said.
The CPC’s National Congress was a widely watched agenda this year for “one of the world’s most important power transitions” that followed it, as some foreign media said.
Two authors co-published a comment in the Financial Times on Monday, which said that China “has developed the right formula for choosing political rulers that is consistent with China’s culture and history and suitable for modern circumstances.”
Daniel Bell and Eric Li, a professor of political theory at Qinghua University in Beijing and a Shanghai-based venture capitalist, wrote in the British newspaper, “The Chinese political system has undergone significant change over the past three decades and it comes close to the best formula for governing a large country.
“It (Chinese regime) should be improved on the basis of this formula, not western style democracy,” they observed.
NEW FACES IN POLITICAL BUREAU
In addition to the seven Standing Committee members, the Political Bureau has another 18 members. Among them, Liu Yandong, Li Yuanchao and Wang Yang are serving their second term in the central leading organ.
Liu, 67, is also a state councilor. She holds a doctoral degree of law.
Li is also a doctor of law. He was previously a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee. He is 62.
Wang, 57, is Party chief of Guangdong Province. He previously worked in Chongqing. He is a master of engineering.
The new members of the bureau are: Ma Kai, Wang Huning, Liu Qibao, Xu Qiliang, Sun Chunlan, Sun Zhengcai, Li Jianguo, Zhang Chunxian, Fan Changlong, Meng Jianzhu, Zhao Leji, Hu Chunhua, Li Zhanshu, Guo Jinlong and Han Zheng.
Among the new faces, eight were born around 1949, the founding year of New China. State Councilor Ma Kai is 66. The master of economics previously led the National Development and Reform Commission.
Sun Chunlan from Fujian Province is currently the only woman Party chief in the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. Her entry added one more woman member to the Political Bureau. Liu Yandong was the only woman in the central leading body. Sun is 62.
Li Jianguo, 66, is vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. The senior legislator is a Chinese language and literature graduate.
Meng Jianzhu, 65, is a state councilor and also minister of public security. He holds a master’s degree of engineering.
Li Zhanshu is director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee. He was previously Party chief of Guizhou Province. He is 62.
Beijing Party chief Guo Jinlong received a physics education in university, and previously worked in Tibet for 11 years. He is 65.
Fan Changlong, 65, and Xu Qiliang, 62, are two members from the army. The two generals are both vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission. They began service in the 1960s.
Seven new faces are under the age of 60. Wang Huning, 57, was previously a member of the Central Committee’s Secretariat. Before he started a political career, he was a professor of the prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai.
Sichuan Province Party chief Liu Qibao, 59, is a master of economics. He previously worked at the Communist Youth League of China, served as deputy secretary-general of the State Council and deputy editor-in-chief of the People’s Daily. He has also worked in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Zhang Chunxian, 59, is Party chief of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. He holds a master’s degree in management. He worked in Hunan Province before he was transferred to Xinjiang.
Zhao Leji, party chief of Shaanxi Province, previously worked in Qinghai, a plateau province with adverse natural condition, for 27 years. The philosophy graduate from Beijing University is 55.
Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng is a master of economics. He is 58.
Notably, the Political Bureau has two members who were born in the 1960s — Sun Zhengcai and Hu Chunhua.
Sun, also 49, is a doctor of agronomy. The Party chief of Jilin Province was previously minister of agriculture.
Hu, 49, is Party chief of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. He volunteered to work in Tibet after graduating from university, and stayed there for about 20 years. He worked at the Communist Youth League of China before going to Inner Mongolia.
The plenum also elected the Secretariat of the Central Committee, which includes Liu Yunshan, Liu Qibao, Zhao Leji, Li Zhanshu, Du Qinglin, Zhao Hongzhu and Yang Jing.
It is observed that the new leading echelon has rich governance experience at provincial levels, and they also boast good education backgrounds, with more than 10 doctors and masters, whose majors vary from economics, politics and law to agronomy and management.
Their experience and education backgrounds will help push China towards greater progress, observers said.
Liu Xiangting, a resident at Dashilan, a community near Tian’anmen in downtown Beijing, said the emergence of a new leading team indicates that China will enjoy greater development momentum.
“I hope the new leaders will care for our livelihoods, boost development and keep themselves clean,” said Liu.