Who after Hu is more or less clear, the question is what and how

FP

As the world turns its gaze towards the upcoming leadership change in China, the question now is not "who after Hu", but "how" and "which" path the new generation of leaders will take, given the myriad of challenges that the country is facing. Will they break from the past?

It is more or less clear that vice president Xi Jingping, the "princeling", will take over the baton of the Communist Party of China now and the presidency in March from Hu Jintao to rule one-third of the human population.

What is not yet clear is whether political reforms — in other words introduction of democracy and loosening of the party's control — would be on the agenda of Xi, the son of a revolutionary hero of yesteryear. His father Xi Zhongxun had served as vice-premier.

As far as India is concerned, the question is whether there will be any change in Beijing's stance towards New Delhi and on issues such as the vexed boundary dispute and the growing trade imbalance between the two countries. There have been no signals yet of what the new leadership's attitude will be like.

In the last two decades, China has become an economic powerhouse, but the slowdown in the economy, widespread corruption and growing signs of social unrest have been matters of domestic worry. For Xi, the challenge is to tackle the widening gap between rich and poor and the societal imbalances and inequalities, which are creating conflict within the society. In fact, outgoing prime minister Wen Jiabao has more than once decribed China's development as "unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable".

About the economy, an official said on condition of anonymity: "We do not have a huge budget deficit. We have a huge current account surplus and inflation is quite low in China. So, we are not really bothered about the slowdown. China's economy is more resilient that the people have predicted."

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