China names conservative, older leadership

Wang Qishan

China's ruling Communist Party unveiled an older, conservative new leadership line-up on Thursday that appears unlikely to take the drastic action needed to tackle pressing issues like social unrest, environmental degradation and corruption.

New party chief Xi Jinping, premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang and vice-premier in charge of economic affairs Wang Qishan, all expectedly named to the elite decision-making Politburo Standing Committee, are considered cautious reformers. The other four members have the reputation of being conservative.

We're not going to see any political reform because too many people in the system see it as a slippery slope to extinction, said David Shambaugh, director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.

They see it entirely through the prism of the Soviet Union, the Arab Spring and the Colour Revolutions in Central Asia, so they're not going to go there.

Wang, the most reform-minded in the line-up, has been given the role of fighting widespread graft.

One source said an informal poll was held within the 25-member Politburo to choose the seven members from among 10 candidates. Two of them who had strong reform credentials - Guangdong party boss Wang Yang and party organisation head Li Yuanchao - failed to make it to the standing committee along with the lone woman candidate Liu Yandong.

The source, who has ties to the leadership, told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Wang and Li Yuanchao, both allies of outgoing President Hu Jintao, did not make it to the standing committee because party elders felt they were too liberal.

However, all three are in the Politburo, a group that ranks below the standing committee.

The leadership is divided, said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a Chinese politics expert at Hong Kong Baptist University, adding however that the new leadership would find it easier to make progress on economic reform rather than political change.

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