In a surprise, Hu also relinquished his title as chairman of the Central Military Commission, the body that runs China’s 2.3 million-member army. With Xi now taking over the chairmanship of the military body, China’s transition is now virtually complete, lessening the prospect of a lingering rivalry for influence between the outgoing and incoming leaders.
Xi, in his remarks, said the party’s trust and people’s expectations “are a source of tremendous encouragement for us, and put enormous responsibility on our shoulders.”
“The people’s desire for a better life is what we shall fight for,” Xi said. He said his main job was to “steadfastly take the road of prosperity for all.”
He said the ruling Communist Party would be “proud but not complacent, and we will never rest on our laurels.” He said the party suffered from problems of “corruption, taking bribes, being out of touch with the people, [and] undue emphasis on bureaucracy and formalities.”
What direction Xi and the other new leaders will take is not known. While waiting in the wings for five years, Xi has carefully avoided giving any hint of his priorities, remaining strictly neutral to avoid endangering his status as heir among the party’s competing factions.
Any changes to the system envisioned by Xi are likely to be constrained by several older party leaders considered more conservative in outlook who were named Thursday to the Politburo Standing Committee. The body effectively runs the country and was shrunk from nine to seven seats, ostensibly for faster decision making and greater ease for reaching consensus.
Xi and the other leaders, in look-alike dark suits and most of them wearing red neckties, walked onto a stage at the Great Hall of the People at 11:55 a.m., more than a half-hour later than expected. Xi introduced his new leadership team and spoke for about 10 minutes before they filed off the stage.
“Our journey ahead is long and arduous,” Xi said. “We must always be of one heart and mind with the people.”
Xi appeared relaxed and smiling, and he spoke casually as he read his speech, a major contrast to his predecessor, Hu, who often appeared stiff and formal in official gatherings and rarely looked up while reading his prepared text.
Those hoping this week-long party congress would send a clear signal in favor of openness and change were largely disappointed that the final Standing Committee lineup consists of mostly older, conservative establishment figures.
After Xi and the No. 2 official, Li Keqiang, who will become premier, the other top officials, in order of their new rank, are Zhang Dejiang, 66, a North Korean-trained economist now running Chongqing; Yu Zhengsheng, 67, the Shanghai party boss; and Liu Yunshan, 65, the head of the Communist Party’s propaganda department, which is in charge of censorship. The final two on the seven-member committee are Wang Qishan, 64, known for his economic management skills, who will be in charge of anti-corruption efforts as head of the party’s discipline commission in the new government; and Zhang Gaoli, 66, the party boss in Tianjin.