Chinese leader quits as party chief

President Hu Jintao has stepped aside as Communist Party leader to clear the way for Vice President Xi Jinping to take the helm in China.

Chinese leader quits as party chief

President Hu Jintao has stepped aside as Communist Party leader to clear the way for Vice President Xi Jinping to take the helm in China.

Delegates to a pivotal party congress said that Mr Hu was not re-elected a member of the party’s Central Committee on the final day of the gathering today.

Mr Xi was re-elected along with other leading candidates for seats on the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.

Designated as successor five years ago, Mr Xi will take over as party general secretary from Mr Hu tomorrow and as president next spring, in China’s second orderly transfer of power.

Li Keqiang also is due to take over from Wen Jiabao as premier. The new leaders face an economic slowdown and rising unrest among citizens.

The changeover is part of only the second orderly transfer of power in 63 years of communist rule.

Mr Hu and other senior leaders, mostly in their late 60s, are handing over power to the leader-in-waiting and other colleagues in their late 50s over the next few months.

The new leadership faces daunting challenges including slowing growth in the world’s second-ranked economy, rising unrest among increasingly assertive citizens and delicate relations with neighbouring countries.

It is unclear whether Mr Hu will relinquish his most powerful remaining position as head of the commission that oversees the military, or hold on to it for a transitional period as previous retiring leaders have done.

Delegates said they cheered when the announced results of secret ballot showed Mr Xi had been unanimously chosen for the committee, a step toward being named to the top-most panel, the Politburo Standing Committee, and becoming party leader.

Li Keqiang, designated as the next premier, also was elected to the panel, the state Xinhua News Agency said.

As the final day of the week-long congress drew to a close in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, after reporters were invited into the secretive proceedings, Mr Hu gathered papers before him on the dais of leaders, shook hands with people in the row behind him and walked off the stage.

Sitting on the dais next to him was his predecessor, 86-year-old Jiang Zemin, who has emerged as a key powerbroker, manoeuvring his allies into the leadership at the expense of Mr Hu.

Mr Jiang had to be helped up by attendants when congress members stood for the communist anthem, the Internationale. Afterward, Mr Jiang turned to Mr Hu and shook hands before being escorted offstage.

The party’s 2,200-plus delegates also rubber-stamped the report Mr Hu delivered last week committing the party to continuing a pro-economic growth agenda while retaining firm political control. Mr Hu urged stronger measures to rein in corruption and make the government more responsive to public demands, but offered little in the way of specifics.

The next line-up of China’s most powerful body, the Politburo Standing Committee, will be announced tomorrow. Though congress and Central Committee delegates have some influence over leadership decisions, most of the line-up is decided among a core group of the most powerful party members and elders.

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