Xi Jinping Named China’s President

Xi Jinping completed his ascension to the highest echelons of power in China on Thursday as the National People’s Congress named him state president. Xi was also nominated to the head of the Central Military Commission, while Li Yuanchao was named Vice President. Li Keqiang is expected to be elected Premier on Friday. From Reuters:

The 59-year-old was also elected head of the Central Military Commission, the 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 legislators to Xi becoming president. Xi drew just one no vote and three abstentions from the almost 3,000 delegates.

Li Yuanchao was also elected vice president, confirming an earlier Reuters story.

Bloomberg reports on the significance of Xi’s promotion after a tumultuous year in Chinese politics:

The appointment of Xi cements a power transition that was thrown into turmoil last year when Bo Xilai was expelled from the ruling Politburo and his wife convicted of murdering a British businessman. Having all the formal positions gives Xi a leadership mandate in a system where retired leaders still hold sway, said Kerry Brown, a former British diplomat in Beijing.

“The party secretary is the bones, this is the covering of flesh,” said Brown, now a professor at the University of Sydney. “Granting Xi the full suite so quickly is a big deal — it shows huge confidence in him by the party elders and across factions.”

Yet the confidence in Xi shown by the Party elite may take more time to trickle down to the public, who have become increasingly outspoken about government malfeasance on a number of issues. From the New York Times:

Xi takes charge at a time when the public is looking for leadership that can address sputtering economic growth and mounting anger over widespread graft, high-handed officialdom and increasing unfairness. A growth-at-all-costs model that defined the outgoing administration’s era has befouled the country’s air, waterways and soil, adding another serious threat to social stability.

Underlying public unhappiness with the party is a deficit in trust.

“At present, the party and the government have very little public credibility,” said Zhang Ming, a China politics expert at the prestigious Renmin University in Beijing. “The way to regain credibility is to at least show some results, but at this point that can’t be seen and I predict there won’t be any real results later.”

For more on expectations for the Xi administration, watch this video from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which interviews Douglas Paal:

As the carefully scripted elections were held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, foreign journalists and others in China tweeted their responses, comparing the closed conclave to the one in the Vatican which elected a new Pope on Wednesday:


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