The open-door generation

China's new leaders, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, formed their worldview in the reforms era. They are expected to be more global in their outlook

The first stage of the well-choreographed, closed-door leadership transition in China is over. As expected, 59-year-old Xi Jinping has replaced Hu Jintao as the head of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and its massive military. Xi and 57-year-old Li Keqiang — the fifth generation of leaders — will now replace Hu and Wen Jiabao as president and premier early next year to lead the country for the next decade.

The world keenly watched the secretive change of guard in China and so did New Delhi, although knowing well that the once-a-decade transition of power will not prompt a radical and dramatic shift in its foreign policy as the CPC follows the collective leadership principle.

There will, however, be subtle reorientations and minor adjustments from time-to-time to suit Beijing's economic interests and priorities and to meet the evolving and changing strategic dynamics, particularly in its neighbourhood. So, what does the change of the guard mean for India and its relations with China?

The ties between India and China have been complex and at times rocky against the backdrop of the unresolved boundary dispute and the Tibetan issue. Minor irritants have cropped up from time-to-time too, but both Asian giants have in the past consciously tried to ensure that these did not become obstacles and scuttle the ever increasing trade ties as well as the overall engagement. Trade cooperation has become key to the normalisation of ties.

Having formed their worldview in the reforms-and-open-door-policy era, the fifth generation of Chinese leadership is expected to be more global in their outlook and possess a more sophisticated understanding of the economy and the world. Xi himself joined the CPC in 1974 and Li in 1976. In fact, 72.2 per cent of the total number of delegates who attended the 18th Party Congress and elected the new leadership joined the CPC after 1978. Xi worked his way up during the Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin periods. He has waited in the wings for the last 10 years to become the country's next leader.

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