China Ushers in New Leaders as Hu Jintao Bows Out

K J M Varma/Anil K Joseph/Beijing
China Ushers in New Leaders as Hu Jintao Bows Out

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao bowed out of the top leadership of the ruling Communist Party of China today after a 10-year stint in power, as the Party's key Congress wrapped up its meeting after electing a new set of younger leaders including Xi Jinping, widely tipped to take over as the new boss tomorrow.

Bidding farewell at the end of the week-long 18th Party Congress here today, Hu, who is credited to have improved Sino-Indian relations in the last decade, said, "the Congress elected a new Central Committee of the Party and replaced older leaders with younger ones".

The Congress which met at Beijing's cavernous Great Hall of the People concluded after electing over 300 members to the Central Committee, the main policy making body of the world's largest political party with 82.3 million members.

Much on the expected lines, all top leaders including Xi, 59, Li Keqiang, 57, who is officially projected to succeed Wen as Premier as well as several senior leaders including the lone woman, Lu Yandong, 67 were elected to the new Central Committee.

The new Central Committee in turn would elect tomorrow a 25-member Politburo which will then choose the all-power Standing Committee, whose numbers were yet to be revealed.

The outgoing Standing Committee, forming the basis for Party's policy of collective leadership consisted of nine members including Hu and Wen.

Hu and Wen would relinquish the party posts tomorrow but the two leaders would continue in office as Chinese President and Premier respectively, till March next year. 

On the face of it, the leadership transition in the faction-ridden 92-year-old Communist Party went off smoothly as the Party leaders successfully purged the supporters of hard-line Maoist leader Bo Xilai in the run up to the Congress.

Bo, disgraced by the scandal involving his wife Gu Kailai in the murder of the British national Neil Heywood, stated to be agent of UK's intelligence service MI6 is currently awaiting trial after he was expelled from the party.

Bo, who made a strong bid to revive the old Maoist ideology playing up on the growing rich-poor divide was the front runner for the Standing Committee few months ago.

The scandal which shook the party in the run up to the Congress helped the leadership headed by Hu which adhered to Deng Xiaoping's reformist ideology strongly opposed to the revival of Mao ideology.

Other hopefuls for the top leadership who were inducted into the Central Committee included Wang Qishan, Liu Yunshan, Liu Yandong, Li Yuanchao, Wang Yang, Zhang Gaoli, Zhang Dejiang and Yu Zhengsheng and two top military officials, Fan Changlong and Xu Qiliang.

In China, the Command structure of the 2.3 million strong military is part of the Communist Party.

The conclusion of the Congress formally marked the end of Hu and Wen era which brought mixed results for China.

While the country catapulted to the position of the second largest economy next only to the United States, the sudden rise of China and its growing military might evoked widespread concerns especially in the neighbourhood.

Hu's era was largely credited to have brought out improvement in Sino-India relations though the border issue is yet to be solved.

Barring the stapled visas issue for residents of Jammu and Kashmir, which China stopped after strong objections from India, Beijing focussed on improving ties bringing "strategic equilibrium" to its otherwise pro-Pakistan policy.

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