China Elects New President and Premier

China's President Xi Jinping & Li KeqiangJNN 18 Mar 2013 BEIJING – China’s parliament has elected Xi Jinping as New President, and Li Keqiang as Premier . 

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, was elected president of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission (CMC) on Thursday.

On Thursday, the National People’s Congress formally elected heir-in-waiting Xi as president, completing the country’s second orderly political succession since the Communist Party took power in 1949, Reuters reported.

Xi was appointed party and military chief — where real power lies — in November.

Born in 1953 into a revolutionary family from Fuping of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, Xi joined the CPC in January 1974.

He graduated from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Tsinghua University with a major in Marxist theory and ideological and political education.

From the Loess Plateau to the southeast coast and then to Beijing, and from county-level official to the central leadership, Xi has had a well-rounded political career.

On Nov. 15, 2012, he was elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee at the first plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee and became the first top Party leader born after October 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was founded.

The 59-year-old was also elected head of the Central Military Commission, a 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.

Xi drew just one no vote and three abstentions from the almost 3,000 delegates.

Xi bowed deeply and shook hands with his predecessor Hu Jintao upon the announcement of the result, carried live on state television. Xi and Hu exchanged a few inaudible words.

Li Yuanchao was also elected vice president on Thursday.

There were five other candidates put forth for the vice-presidential position including Wang Yang, the reformist former party chief of southern Guangdong province, and propaganda tsar Liu Yunshan. Xi had fended off a bid by influential former president Jiang Zemin to install Liu, a source with ties to the leadership said.

On Friday, the National People’s Congress formally elected Li Keqiang as premier, choosing an English-speaking bureaucrat as the man in charge of the economy, the world’s second-largest, and its aim of reviving growth through consumer-led expansion.

The National People’s Congress chose Li, 57, to replace Wen Jiabao.

Nearly 3,000 delegates gathered in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to vote on Li’s appointment, putting the final stamp of approval on a generational transition of power.

Li drew only three no votes and six abstentions from the carefully selected parliament.

While President Xi is the country’s top leader, Li heads China’s State Council, or cabinet, and is charged with executing government policy and overseeing the economy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel became the first foreign leader to call Li to offer congratulations, state media said. They also discussed the European debt crisis, state radio reported, without providing details.

As premier, Li is faced with one of the world’s widest gaps between rich and poor, an economy over-reliant on investment spending and a persistently frothy housing market that has stoked resentment among the middle class.

“I believe that in this class (of new leaders), his intent to reform is quite strong,” said Chen Ziming, an independent political commentator in Beijing. “He has a close relationship with reform-minded economists. We’ve seen from his speeches after the 18th party congress that the gap between them and him isn’t far.”

More than any other Chinese party leader until now, Li was immersed in the intellectual and political ferment of the decade of reform under Deng Xiaoping, which ended in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests that were crushed by troops.

As a student at Peking University, Li befriended ardent pro-democracy advocates, some of whom later became outright challengers to party control. His friends included activists who went into exile after the June 1989 crackdown.

“He has a better understanding of how Westerners think,” a source familiar with China’s foreign policy told Reuters.

Li, who has a degree in law and a doctorate in economics, will take the reins of an economy whose growth slowed in 2012 to a 13-year low, albeit at a 7.8 percent rate that is the envy of other major economies.

Analysts have described the Wen years as a lost decade during which economic reforms slowed and state-backed industries tightened their grip on the economy.

Both Xi and Li will need to deliver a blueprint to stabilize the real estate market. They need to do this quickly to calm a market in which real estate prices have soared 10-fold in major cities during the last decade.

The NPC deputies also adopted a massive cabinet restructuring and streamlining plan aimed at reducing bureaucracy and making the government more efficient.

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