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Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times
Beijing, November 16, 2012
The new general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), who will hold the post till 2022, began his first speech as top party chief on Thursday with an apology.

Seconds after leading his six colleagues - all seven clad in dark suits - of the party's top decision making body, the standing committee of the party, at a packed chamber of the Great Hall of the People, Xi apologised for making journalists wait.

Not that anyone was complaining. The walk down the red carpet for the new Standing Committee (SC) - reduced in number from nine to seven - might have been customary but it marked the fifth generation of CPC leaders - after Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao - taking over the reins of the most populous country in the world with the second largest economy after the US.

The new SC is being perceived as a more conservative one rather than one up for more reforms. The new line-up revealed that former President leader Jiang Zemin, 86, still has influence, because at least four out of seven new members are widely seen as his allies.

Jiang holds no official post in the party but his presence at the inauguration and rumours of hard fought backroom deals indicate that he still had an overarching influence.

Xi takes over the wheels of the party at a time when it's beset with multiple problems: The economy is slowing down, a number of high-profile corruption scandals have rocked the party, several pollution-related industrial protests across China have forced industrial expansion to be stopped or suspended, wages are rising and the number of protest suicides in Tibetan areas have seen a sharp, disturbing increase.

Xi knows the problems well and he made it a point to praise China in an apparent attempt to boost the morale of the Party.


"Our people have an ardent love for life. They wish to have better education, more stable jobs, more income, greater social security, better medical and health care, improved housing conditions, and a better environment," Xi said. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/11/16-11-12-pg-15a.jpg

"The ostensible lack of drama throughout the week-long session may disappoint sensation seekers," China Daily said in an editorial on Thursday before the new Standing Committee line-up was announced. "But the confidence in continuity, instead of revolutionary ideas and dramatic approaches, means a better tomorrow is attainable."