When Xi Jinping entered the Great Hall of the People first in line of a small parade, all the remaining uncertainty about the congress vanished as expected. The 59 year-old chemical engineer from Beijing, son of one of the founders of the Communist Party in China and a victim/protagonist of the Cultural Revolution, will guide China for the next decade. He was elected by 2,270 delegates gathered in Beijing for the XVIII Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. In full adherence to the rules, the new members of the Central Committee and other administrative bodies were selected, all by unanimous vote.
As expected, Xi will become President of the Republic next March, a primarily ceremonial function for meetings with foreign counterparts. It is the position of Secretary General that gives him the status of most important and powerful person in China, according to the Leninist-Confucian line held by the organization.
Behind Xi walked Li Keqiang, the next Prime Minister, also boasting an impeccable pedigree for his position. The selection of the two leaders happened long ago, the court was merely a formality. Xi and Li represent the selection of the “fifth generation” of leaders that will guide the country. It was a mutual decision, bloodless, a mediation able to reconcile the different interests (and the legacy of by now faded ideals) that live within the Party.
The Party has changed, and its responsibilities have changed a great deal since the heroic times of its founding or the pioneering times of the reconstruction of the People’s Republic. Under the Party’s direction, China has changed, grown, and become more complex. Even its original structure – “the Party of the workers and farmers” – has been revised, a tribute to the social mutation created by development. Now the Party represents the interests of all of China and its people, including entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and service sectors workers who have been called to serve the Motherland. They need no other political organization, now that the glorious old CCP has transformed to accommodate their needs. Some things have remained intact over the course of this transformation: the liturgy of the event, the 1900’s-esque lexicon, and the organizational structure.
XI Jinping has been left to carry out policy that has largely already been decided. He will need to mediate between the various forces of the Party, and the interests that protect them. Private business demands more political space and easier access to credit, like that afforded to state-owned enterprises. The interior provinces – which have only marginally enjoyed the benefits of globalization – seek a reduction in the difference between incomes there and in the coastal regions. Local administrations are pushing for more independence from Beijing, but the capital instead fears uncontrollable decentralization in its immense territory. Urban centers hope for a loosening of censorship, a version of the truth where propaganda gives way to the facts. Everyone calls for an end to corruption. Hu Jintao underlined the sentiment with unusual frankness during his farewell address. Faced with the size of these tasks – considering only the domestic aspect – Xi can count on an apparently cohesive Party. He will be called to make decisions, and maybe the ambition to mediate without having to disappoint will have to be sacrificed for the importance of those choices.