China’s old guard bows out,Xi set to become President

China's old guard led by President Hu Jintao bowed out of power

Written by Press Trust Of India | Beijing | Published:March 6, 2013 12:59 am

China’s old guard led by President Hu Jintao Tuesday bowed out of power after highlighting the communist giant’s rise as a world power during their decade-long rule,paving the way for new leader Xi Jinping to assume charge of the world’s second largest economy.

Premier Wen Jiabao,who along with Hu steered China for the last 10 years,made his final bow before the 3,000- strong National People’s Congress (NPC) after presenting a lengthy work report listing out achievements of his era,especially the nation’s emergence as the world’s second largest economy,overtaking Japan in 2011.

The NPC began its two-week long session here Tuesday during which the new leaders will take over reins from the outgoing leadership headed by Hu in what was regarded as a smooth power transfer considering speculation about the factionalism in the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Wen’s 29-page report mainly focussed on achievements like creating infrastructure with dozens of airports,thousands of kilometres of roads and high speed trains besides all-round development of the world’s most populous country.

However,at the same time,the 70-year-old leader,who last year refuted allegations of his family accumulating $2.7 billion assets,called for unwavering efforts to combat corruption,excessive concentration power and strengthening of political integrity.

He also spoke about problems China faced,prominent of which is the “unbalanced,uncoordinated and unsustainable development”.

Watched by 70-year-old Hu,Xi and other top leaders,Wen spoke of growing disparities between rich and poor and development gap between regions,potential risks in the financial sector and conflict between industrial development and environmental protection.

The NPC is set to formally elect 59-year-old Xi as President,57-year-old Li Keqiang as Premier and other top leaders,names of which have already been finalised by the ruling CPC in its Plenum.

While Wen received applause from delegates at the NPC,often described as the rubber stamp legislature for its routine endorsements of party line,many netizens criticised the premier for failing to present specific solutions to looming challenges in their comments on Weibo,the Chinese version of Twitter.

“The report spent 50 minutes on achievement and three minutes listing problems. A great report indeed,” one user was quoted by BBC as saying. “There are so many issues on the agenda,but it is useless just to deliver proposals!” wrote another.

Wen’s report set the economic growth target of this year at 7.5 per cent like last year,taking into consideration the global down turn and steady fall in China’s economic growth due to global downturn.

Another conclave: Why it matters

Why hold another big confab so soon?

Though the Communist Party is the pre-eminent political power in China,it works through the government. The National People’s Congress,which opened Tuesday,is China’s nominal legislature and will announce top appointments to the government,its ministries,the legislature and other bodies. The event,which runs 13 days,bookends the party convention in November that anointed Xi Jinping as general secretary and other members of the Politburo,the apex of power in China.

What does Congress really do?

The congress tends to be highly orchestrated,more political theatre than actual deliberation. Decisions have been made by Xi and power-brokers drawn from the party,government and military in closed-door meetings,and the legislature,which is controlled by the party,ratifies the decisions. Still,it’s the most public event in China’s political calendar and provides a networking opportunity for the leadership and the invited. The public — and the world — also get their most unfiltered look at the premier,who holds his sole news conference of the year at the end of the congress.

If back-room dealmaking dominates,does the event matter?

While the decision-making is secretive,the congress is the way to make them public. Policies announced during the session show the Xi leadership’s priorities. This year,the government is putting the emphasis on corruption and environment and addressing other quality-of-life matters.

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