Xi rides high hopes, but will he be able to deliver?
China's fawning state media, jaded social media commentators and even poor corn and cabbage farmers agree: new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping is off to a good start. Tasks aheadworld Updated: Mar 04, 2013 02:36 IST
China's fawning state media, jaded social media commentators and even poor corn and cabbage farmers agree: new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping is off to a good start.
"General Secretary Xi doesn't put on any airs. He talks like an ordinary person," said 69-year-old farmer Tang Rongbin. The new leader visited Tang's sparse, dimly lit farmhouse in Luotuowan village in December, bearing gifts of cooking oil, flour and a blanket.
Xi has styled himself as an economic reformer, an iron-fisted graft-buster, a staunch nationalist and a no-frills man-of-the-people - spurring expectations for change. But as he prepares to be appointed to the largely ceremonial role of president, pressure will be growing on him to deliver.
China faces rising public anger over corruption, a burgeoning rich-poor gap and the degradation of the country's air, soil and waterways. Slower economic growth and territorial disputes, especially with Japan, add to the tension.
Mounting protests over environmental issues, land seizures and high-handed officialdom point to the underlying social discontent. Days before the party conclave that brought Xi to power last year, thousands of protesters in the eastern city of Ningbo faced off against riot police outside government offices, calling on officials to halt a chemical plant expansion.
"I think there has been a revolution of rising expectations," said Willy Lam, an expert on party politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "People realize they can get away with even demonstrations to make their wills heard."