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The National People’s Congress of China yesterday elected Xi Jinping as the president. The 59-year-old bowed twice before the delegates of the Chinese Parliament amid loud applause after his name was announced as the head of the most populous country which straddles the economic sphere with its giant presence. The election by the National People’s Congress was largely symbolic as Xi was anointed the head of the Chinese Communist Party in a conclave held in November last year. Xi takes over from Hu Jintao at a crucial point for the Chinese nation. China, after emerging from the shadows of Mao Zedong’s controversial rule and later embracing a capitalist economy, is deified and defied. Its policies which have brought about extensive economic growth come with a heavy dose of Communism that is inbuilt in the nation’s political system.
Xi faces largely unprecedented challenges. The manufacturing might of the country propelled by an intensive outsourcing boom all over the world, has recently shown signs of waning. After outsourcing almost all its products to China, the United States seems to be realising its folly. It feels it could have created more jobs by hosting manufacturing facilities. Many other countries have started realising that in letting go of manufacturing facilities they are losing an important element of their national power. The Chinese model of development may face bumps in the near future and it would be Xi’s administration that will have to contend with this.
Another important concern is corruption. A largely traditional society, China has an inequitable distribution of wealth. The development largesse, reaped by the high and mighty, hasn’t percolated down the social and economic order. Corruption is rife in a society coming face to face with the glitzy trappings of capitalism. The Bo Xilai case embodied everything that was wrong with China today. The top Communist party official was caught in a murder-deceit-graft scandal that shook the foundations of the Communist party and forced the top leadership to introspect. There was an uproar in the country over the scandal. The demand for administrative reforms and change in the inside workings of the party came out with full force. Recently, outgoing Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was caught in a controversy triggered by a New York Times report that catalogued in great details how Jiabao’s family had benefited after he rose to be the premier. With the help of a family tree, the paper showed the quantum leap in the pecuniary gains reaped by his close and extended family. The Chinese government acted quickly. It blocked the report on Chinese websites, and after some days, the NYT reporter was ordered to leave the country. Xi needs to get his act together from the beginning. Besides, graft he has to deal with a recalcitrant North Korea, rebellions by minority Muslims in the northwest, and island disputes with neighbours in the East China Sea. The new leader should aim at change for which history will judge him favourably•