Still, in the opaque world of Chinese politics such distinctions often are blurrier than analysts might present them as being. Still, it seemed a fair assumption from the names on the list that Jiang and those around him had bettered Hu.
The intentions of Xi and Li are so far unknown, but their careers have been rooted in a Communist Party averse to sudden or dramatic shifts.
Because the standing committee is ruled by carefully calibrated consensus, whatever their agendas, it would be difficult for them to implement any bold strokes.
That model of governance has brought tremendous economic growth but also left a host of serious problems for leadership to tackle. Among them are a wide divide in income and privilege, growing unease about environmental problems, the question of how or when to tackle deeply entrenched state-owned enterprises that have slowed economic diversification, and public resentment about official corruption.
The new standing committee will probably have a bit more room to maneuver after being pruned from nine to seven seats.
The leadership under Xi is expected to seek to tamp down on tensions through a variety of social management measures, perhaps including a revision to rural land law that would help alleviate a frequent flashpoint for unrest, more closely regulating planning for projects like chemical plants that have sparked large protests, and doing further work to make the legal system fairer.
Some observers had pegged two potential candidates as bellwethers for change: Wang Yang, the 57-year-old party secretary of the coastal Guangdong Province, and Li Yuanchao, the 62-year-old head of the partys organization department. Like Hu, both Wang and Li share Youth League ties.
While the pair are nothing like firebrands in party circle, reform refers to structural adjustments that make it a more efficient organization theyre considered to be more willing to contemplate change.
They were not, however, among those selected, though theyve not been shunted out of the picture. Given the targeted retirement age of 68, the two could make the next standing committee in five years, when every member but Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang will presumably leave.
Officially, the standing committee was elected by the Communist Partys central committee, a body of 205 full members who were said to have been selected the day before by a party congress. In reality, while the central committee was reportedly voted-in during a process that involved a small amount of competition, the 25-seat politburo and its standing committee were formed by factional jockeying behind closed doors.
Foreign journalists were told to wait outside during voting for the central committee at a party congress the day before. Xinhua ran photographs of a stoic-looking Hu Jintao dropping a ballot into a red box adorned with a gold hammer and sickle. Jiang Zemin, similarly attired in a dark suit and red tie, was also pictured, staring straight into the camera as he lodged his vote.
After the press entered on Wednesday, a resolution was passed by unanimous consent to amend the Communist Party constitution to include Hus Scientific Outlook on Development roughly, a call for pragmatic and balanced economic and social growth into the list of guiding philosophical precepts. The resolution also mentioned Mao Zedong Thought five times, dashing for now any lingering hopes by reformists that the party might shift away from the legacy of a man whose policies led to the deaths of millions.
A report submitted last Thursday by Hu, which called for any political changes to be carried out under the close supervision of the party, also passed unopposed. Hu then took the stage, and made brief remarks calling on all present to conscientiously study and implement the partys theories.
He concluded by asking the crowd to rise and sing The Internationale, the leftist political anthem. A band played, and soon the hall was empty.