Belfast Telegraph

Timely visit to world's powerhouse economy

By David Elliott and AP

Northern Ireland's ministers chose an interesting political time to visit the world's second largest economy.

Xi Jinping became China's new leader only yesterday, assuming the top posts in the Communist Party and the powerful military in a political transition unbowed by scandals, a slower economy and public demands for reforms.

Mr Xi was introduced as the new party general secretary at Beijing's Great Hall of the People a day after the close of a party congress that underlined the communists' determination to remain firmly in power.

He and the six other men who will form China's new collective leadership, all dressed in dark suits and walked in line onto the red-carpeted stage.

Mr Xi's appointment as chairman of the military commission, announced by the state Xinhua News Agency, marked a break from the recent tradition of retiring leaders holding onto the post for a transitional period to extend their influence.

It meant outgoing leader Hu Jintao would relinquish all positions of power, giving Mr Xi leeway to consolidate authority.

The outgoing Mr Hu oversaw a decade of turgid economic growth and urban development and tried to make concern for ordinary people the hallmark of his tenure, but he also will be remembered for harshly stifling dissent and rolling back civil liberties.

But a generation of Chinese are now more aware of their rights and more vocal about demanding them.