Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

China names Xi Jinping president

Outgoing Chinese president Hu Jintao, left, chats with incoming president Xi Jinping (AP)

China's new leader Xi Jinping has capped his rise by adding the largely ceremonial title of president, though he will need cautious work to consolidate his power and build support from a public that is increasingly clamouring for change.

The elevation of Mr Xi to the presidency by the rubberstamp national legislature gave him the last of the three titles held by his predecessor, Hu Jintao.

The move was expected after Mr Xi was named head of the Communist Party and chairman of its military, positions of true power, last November in a once-a-decade handover to a new group of leaders that has been years in the making.

"I'm very happy. With President Xi leading us, China will be more prosperous and more powerful," said Zhang Rihong, chairwoman of a property company from north-eastern Heilongjiang province who joined nearly 3,000 fellow delegates to the National People's Congress in Beijing's cavernous, red-carpeted Great Hall of the People.

"This is welcomed by all," she said.

Though Mr Xi is now formally in charge, big challenges remain for him within the party's top ranks - in which powerful people are often divided by patronage, ideology or financial interests.

This will be doubly so if he follows through on his pledge to tackle the endemic graft he has pinpointed as detrimental to the party's survival, said Willy Lam, a China politics watcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Mr Xi's accession marks only the second orderly transfer of power in more than six decades of Communist Party rule. He was the only candidate for president in Thursday's ballot in the country's figurehead parliament. The delegates voted 2,952 to 1 for Mr Xi in balloting that amounts to a political ritual echoing the decisions of the party leadership. Three delegates abstained.

After the result was announced, Mr Xi bowed to delegates and turned to Mr Hu, seated on his right. The two of them shook hands and posed for photos.

Mr Xi, 59, was also appointed chairman of the government commission that oversees the military.

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