China’s parliament formally elected heir-in-waiting Xi Jinping as the country’s new president today, completing the country’s second orderly political succession since the Communist Party took power in 1949.
The largely rubber-stamp National People’s Congress chose Xi in a tightly scripted ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing, putting the final seal of approval on a generational transition of power.
Xi was appointed party and military chief – where real power lies – in November.
The 59-year-old was also elected head of the Central Military Commission, the parallel government post to the party’s top military position which he already holds, ensuring that he has full power over the party, state and armed forces.
There was virtually no opposition among the carefully selected legislators to Xi becoming president. Xi drew just one no vote and three abstentions from the almost 3,000 delegates.
Xi bowed deeply and shook hands with his predecessor Hu Jintao upon the announcement of the result, carried live on state television. Xi and Hu exchanged a few inaudible words.
Li Yuanchao was also elected vice president.
There were five other candidates put forth for the vice-presidential position including Wang Yang, the reformist former party chief of southern Guangdong province, and propaganda tsar Liu Yunshan. Xi had fended off a bid by influential former president Jiang Zemin to install Liu, a source with ties to the leadership said.
Vice Premier Li Keqiang is set to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao in a similarly scripted vote on Friday.
Hu, 70, relinquished the presidency after serving the maximum two five-year terms.
Hu’s accession to president a decade ago marked Communist China’s first peaceful transition of power. Violent events such as the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators had overshadowed previous hand-overs.
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