BEIJING -- The Chinese Communist Party on Thursday unveiled its new top leadership with a procession of seven officials who walked across a red carpet before flashing cameras, finally drawing the curtain back after months of speculation about a group of some of the most powerful men on the globe.
The seven men, who collectively form the nations politburo standing committee, are the inner core of power in the worlds second-largest economy, and will shape virtually every important decision made here.
It was known beforehand that the group would be led by incoming party General Secretary Xi Jinping, wholl become the nations president at a rubber stamp parliament expected to be held in March. Xi, the 59-year-old son of a prominent party leader, was tipped beforehand along with the premier-in-waiting, 57-year-old Li Keqiang.
The rest of the committee, though, had been the subject of rampant guesswork and, reportedly, fierce rivalry between interest groups.
While politics in China are notoriously hard to predict, it appeared from the lineup that Beijing is not ready to push serious political reform.
The composition of the standing committee and the murky process by which it was selected also suggested that while the Communist Party frequently speaks about intra-party democracy, it remains mired in politics guided by backroom deals and the politicking of influential elders and factional spats.
Should he look to push for big change, though, Xi will enjoy broader sway from the outset than did outgoing General Secretary Hu Jintao, who stepped down from his post as the head of Chinas Central Military Commission. Hus predecessor, Jiang Zemin, lingered in the post for two years after Hu became party leader.
In his brief remarks to the press, Xi did not hint at any new political directions, but he also avoided simply repeating sections of Hus reports of the past week to a party congress.
The peoples desire for a better life is what we shall fight for, Xi said, speaking in a style noticeably more relaxed than that of Hu, as his six fellow standing committee members stood to the side.
He warned, as had Hu, that the Communist Party faces many severe challenges. He listed problems with corruption, bribe-taking, an undue emphasis on formality and officials being out of touch with the people.
More than ideological lines, the committee introduced on Thursday seemed to be drawn along factional ties specifically, an apparent victory for those close to the Chinese leader who preceded Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin. The 86-year-old Jiang was last year rumored to have died or fallen into a vegetative state, but he recently made a series of public appearances that some speculated were a signal that he is still in the political game.
Xi Jinping himself was thought to be Jiangs pick, versus Li Keqiang, who is closely affiliated with the same Communist Youth League that formed a power base for 69-year-old Hu.
Of the seven new standing committee members, only Li and Liu Yunshan, a 65-year-old whod been heading the partys propaganda department, are viewed as being strongly allied with Hu.
The others are Jiang allies: Xi, 66-year-old Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, 67-year-old Shanghai party chief Yu Zhengsheng, 66-year-old Tianjin party chief Zhang Gaoli and 64-year-old Vice Premier Wang Qishan.