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Xi Jinping Confirmed as Next Leader for China’s Communist Party and Military

November 15, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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RAY SUAREZ: Next: China unveiled its new leadership today, as the Communist Party Congress wrapped up.

Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News begins our coverage with this report from Beijing.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The magnificent seven, China’s new leaders, parading in front of Chinese and international media this morning, the new secretary-general of the party, Xi Jinping, struck a surprisingly relaxed tone, his words translated.

XI JINPING, General Secretary, Chinese Communist Party (through translator): Ladies and gentlemen, friends, good morning. Sorry to have kept you waiting.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Amongst the platitudes, a frank acknowledgment of why so many Chinese are fed up with the Communist Party.

XI JINPING (through translator): In the new environment, our party faces many severe challenges. And there are many pressing problems within the party that need to be resolved.

The problems among the party members and cadres of corruption, taking bribes, being out of touch with the people, undue emphasis on formalities and bureaucracy must be addressed with great effort.

LINDSEY HILSUM: We know only a little about Xi. He’s the son of a Communist Party hero. His family is said to have made millions from property development. His daughter is at Harvard and his wife is a famous singer. She holds a rank in the People’s Liberation Army equivalent to major general, but has disappeared from view since her husband was tipped for the top.

The other five on stage today are a conservative lot. Reformers lost out in this reshuffle. Zhang Dejiang studied economics in North Korea.  Liu Yunshan on the right has been in charge of propaganda and censorship.

Yesterday, the Politburo voted to include in their constitution outgoing President Hu Jintao’s theory of scientific development.

“All in favor?” “Anyone against?” “No one. No one.”

It’s a show. Important decisions like who will be leader are stitched up behind closed doors. The 18th Party Congress is over now. It felt like living history, not the 21st century.

The new president, Xi Jinping, spoke of being one heart and mind with the people. But that’s the problem. The secretive rituals of communism seem so old-fashioned, so far removed from the reality of people’s everyday lives here, both from the dynamic, throbbing parts of the economy to the countryside, where people feel they’re being left behind.

The new leadership has to address rural anger about polluted waterways, corruption, and the growing gap between rich and poor. In the cities where China’s economic boom is on display, people are busy shopping. They don’t seem to have much interest in their new leader, Xi Jinping.

WOMAN (through translator): I don’t know much about him, just a tiny bit, really.

MAN (through translator): I know he’s worked in Zhejiang province, but nothing else.

LINDSEY HILSUM: China today is neither dictatorship nor democracy. The new leaders are meant to rule collectively. None has the charisma or ruthlessness of the past. They talk of reform, but have one aim, to ensure that, whatever happens, the party remains in power.