14 Mar 2013

China's new president and a media-aware nation

The Pope isn’t the only one with more than a billion people on his mind. Xi Jinping was officially endorsed as Chinese president today, but what kind of leader will he be?

It was a presidential election alright – but not as we know them. No interminable build up. No aching suspense. This one was done and dusted, months before the actual vote.

Three thousand delegates marched into the Great Hall of the People (or the G-HOP if you prefer) on Thursday morning, ready to endorse 59-year-old Xi Jinping as the president of the People’s Republic of China.

The event was largely ceremonial – Mr Xi was given the keys to nation’s corner office last November – but it is still a big deal. The election marks a once-in-a-generation leadership transition – the largely anonymous Hu Jintao lost his job today. His deputy, “Grandpa” Wen Jiabao, exits stage-left tomorrow.

Needless to say, referenda in one-party states and the Falkland Islands rarely prove competitive and Mr Xi proved the point, polling an awesome 99.86 per cent of the vote. Still, one brave delegate voted against him.

Twitter and its Chinese equivalent, Weibo, were alive with speculation about who might have done such a thing – nothing credible has surfaced so far.

You can see more on “Chinese election style” in our report tonight – and take a moment to reflect of the job that Xi Jingping has taken on. The Argentinian cardinal isn’t the only one with a billion-plus people on his mind.

No-one really knows what sort of leader Xi Jinping will turn out to be – conservative protector of the ruling elite  or a genuine reformer.

But if he does nothing about corruption, official high handedness, increasing inequality, unbreathable air and undrinkable pig-strewn water, the pressure will build.

Thanks in part to the internet, the Chinese public are changing – increasingly aware and increasingly unhappy with the way they are ruled.

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