China names conservative, older leadership

Wang Qishan

North Korean-trained economist Zhang Dejiang is expected to head the largely rubber-stamp parliament, while Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng is likely to head parliament's advisory body, according to the order in which their names were announced.

Tianjin party chief Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan, a conservative who has kept domestic media on a tight leash, make up the rest of the group.

Xi will take over President Hu's state position in March at the annual meeting of parliament, when Li Keqiang will succeed Premier Wen Jiabao.

Despite the problems ahead, Xi will at least not have to worry about Hu looking too much over his shoulder.

Hu has not followed his predecessor Jiang Zemin in staying on as head of the military commission after stepping down as party chief. Xi has instead directly taken over that post, strengthening his position.

Advocates of reform are pressing Xi to cut back the privileges of state-owned firms, make it easier for rural migrants to settle in cities, fix a fiscal system that encourages local governments to live off land expropriations and, above all, tether the powers of a state that they say risks suffocating growth and fanning discontent.

With growing public anger and unrest over everything from corruption to environmental degradation, there may also be cautious efforts to answer calls for more political reform, though nobody seriously expects a move towards full democracy.

The party could introduce experimental measures to broaden inner-party democracy - in other words, encouraging greater debate within the party - but stability remains a top concern and one-party rule will be safeguarded.

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