The Chinese Communist Party's 18th Congress, held in Beijing November 8-14, 2012, marked a key power transition in China. A new generation of leaders, headed by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, took over from the previous leadership headed by Hu Jintao. The Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee was reduced in number from nine to seven. Unlike his predecessor Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao handed over both the Party General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission positions to Xi.
After words, time for action
China's leadership has a new face and a changed style. The once-a-decade transition of power finally complete, President Xi Jinping yesterday articulated his vision and Premier Li Keqiang mapped out plans. Innovative policies have been promised and pledges made for a cleaner, more responsive, government. Pragmatism abounds; that is the only way it can be for the world's most populous country and the second-largest economy, where challenges at home and abroad are many.
There were few surprises - Xi's direction had already been made clear and Li's restructuring of the government, to a leaner 25 ministries from the previous 27, was destined to win the National People's Congress' approval. The focus of the administration will be on improving governance, fighting corruption and serving the nation's 1.34 billion people. No longer will economic growth at-all-costs be made the priority; instead, livelihood issues take the front seat. Disappointing for some was the lack of any mention of political reform.
With the new leadership comes a changed manner, one that offers a more open approach than that of previous governments. Xi's guiding principle is to strive for China's dream, the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation". Li, at his first news conference as premier, showed himself to be a realist. Where his predecessor, Wen Jiabao , quoted ancient philosophers and spoke with dramatic effect, Li's approach instead was direct, no-nonsense and practical.
Li's plans could not be more straightforward: his priorities are a sustainable economy, a government free of corruption, and improving lives. For these to be attained, officials will have to abide by rules and laws, better attention must be paid to the environment and people in urban and rural areas treated equally. There will be a much bigger deficit, this year 1.2 trillion yuan (HK$1.48 trillion); that will be necessary to enact policies. Nor can the relationship between the world's biggest economies, the US and China, be allowed to sour - the nation's continued development depends on trade and investment remaining strong. For Hong Kong, there is assured support.
There could be no more hopeful start for an incoming government. Xi and Li have spoken of openness and transparency, peace and stability. This is what China and the world want and need of Beijing. Policies have been revealed; now they have to be enacted with as much thought and care.