BEIJING Nov 15 Cagey, colourless and
controlled, China's next generation of Communist Party leaders
presented themselves to the world on Thursday, ending months of
speculation about the backroom politicking for heading the
world's most populous nation.
Xi Jinping, who took over as Communist Party chief from
President Hu Jintao, unveiled the standing committee in
Beijing's Great Hall of the People - the climax of a tense drama
in which almost all the action has taken place off stage.
The reporters invited to the ceremony peered over rows of
poinsettias to count the number of black number markers stuck on
to the elevated stage - seven, for the seven members of the
committee, down from nine five years ago. Even that number was
being speculated on until then.
The secrecy and the guessing game lasted until the final
hour. Asked which side of the room the new leaders would walk in
from, a security official said gruffly: "Sit down, you'll find
While waiting, a government worker whispered to his
colleague: "I'm going to predict who they are. Xi, Li ..."
counting them off his fingers.
The ceremony, due to start around 11:00 a.m. (0300 GMT), did
not begin until about an hour later. A spokesman took the
microphone and led applause for the seven men, who, one by one,
filed out from behind a wood and lacquered screen, painted with
two white cranes perched on trees.
They marched single file in order of their rank to their
places on the stage to the flash of cameras. Xi led the parade,
wearing a dark blue suit. The six trailing behind also wore dark
blue suits, all but one set off by red or maroon ties.
Xi took to the podium and apologised for "keeping everybody
waiting", while his team stood stiffly at attention against a
backdrop of a painting of a mist-covered Great Wall.
As Xi introduced his colleagues, addressing them each as
"comrade", each man stepped forward. Most of them gave a slight
bow. Li Keqiang, ranked No.2, gave a little wave, like an
"I believe their names are familiar to you," Xi told the
room full of reporters.
Throughout the ceremony, most of the leaders appeared less
than comfortable. Only Xi looked relaxed. He delivered a speech
in standard Mandarin for about 20 minutes, eight minutes longer
than Hu's speech in 2002, that was devoid of the strong regional
accents, jargon and ideology often employed by his predecessors.
The brief and carefully choreographed ritual, a ceremony
that only started to be open to the foreign media in 1987, gives
the world the first glimpse of the people who will steer China
for the next five years amid rising discontent and economic
"It's an effort to introduce the new leadership to the
world, to provide at least the veneer of an open decision
process, that they're subject to interaction with the press,"
said Chris Johnson, of the Center for Strategic International
Studies in Washington.
But it was only Xi who spoke and no one took questions.
"Friends from the press, just as China needs to learn more
about the world, so does the world need to learn more about
China," Xi said before leading the team off the stage.
"I hope you will continue your efforts to deepen mutual
understanding between China and the world."