China appoints new leader as communists tighten grip on power

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Xi Jinping became China’s new leader 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 weeklong 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, 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 broader leeway to consolidate his authority.

The once-a-decade leadership change was carefully choreographed. It became clear Mr Xi would lead China five years ago, when he was appointed to the Standing Committee – the nation’s apex of power – as the highest-ranked member who would not be of retirement age this year.

In a speech broadcast live on Chinese state TV and worldwide, Mr Xi said: “We shall do everything we can to live up to your trust and fulfil our mission.”

Prime Minister David Cameron congratulated Mr Xi on his appointment.

He reaffirmed his commitment to deepening Britain’s co-operation with the emerging economic giant, adding: “The UK wants China to prosper, and I believe we have much to offer to help it do so.”