New leaders: Chinese and world media reaction

(L-R) Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli greet the media at the Great Hall of the People on November 15, 2012 in Beijing, China. Many microbloggers described the new leaders as 'no surprise'

The unveiling of the new leadership has dominated newspapers across China and provoked lively discussion online, despite stringent censorship, with world media also reflecting on the pivotal transfer of power.

Netizens reacted faster to the widely-expected news that Xi Jinping is replacing Hu Jintao in the top job, with newspapers carrying mainly factual reports.

Ahead of the announcement, many of the papers praised the successful end of the party congress, where the committee that signed off on Mr Xi and the other six members of the Standing Committee were selected.

The Global Times described it as "worthy of congratulations". In what appeared a nod to the Bo Xilai scandal, it added that "some unexpected events happened before the congress, but because of this, China has shown the world its ability to deal with emergencies and consolidate unity".

Beijing News stressed the importance of an orderly succession, quoting a Xinhua report. By stepping down from the Central Committee, the elder Communist Party members had shown a sharp sense of integrity, it said.

Immediately after the new line-up was revealed most papers carried factual reports on Mr Xi's speech - their editorials will likely come later.

The official Communist Party mouthpiece, People's Daily, in a commentary piece published after the unveiling, said the congress provided "a fine blueprint for happiness and strong leadership". "The Chinese Communist Party has once again completed its process of handing over from old to new", it added.

Hong Kong media carried more reaction to the announcement.

Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK quoted commentator Johnny Lau, who said that the new line-up showed previous President Jiang Zemin remained influential, and that the age of the Standing Committee meant some members would need to stand down within five years, potentially affecting the stability of the committee.

Hong Kong broadcaster NowTV said that Xi Jinping's new role as military chief also signified Hu Jintao's complete withdrawal. However, it said that "analysts believe this will not diminish Hu Jintao's influence, and that by handing over power, he has set a good precedent".

In Taiwan, commentators home in on China's reform challenges and the future for cross-strait relations.

The congress proposed "for the first time" that Beijing and Taipei should strive for "fair and reasonable arrangements for cross-strait political relations," notes the Central Daily News. "But it does not include words such as 'as soon as possible' or 'active', so it seems that this issue is not urgent."

"Mainland China still has not shaken off its predicament of left-right struggles," says the Economic Daily News. But the Congress may be a turning point, "as long as officials are determined to start social and political reforms that have stalled for 20 years... This will then be a true 'socialist market economy'."

The Taipei-based China Times says the problems of "an extremely big financial burden caused by a widening gap between the rich and the poor, mounting local debt and an ageing population, as well as serious official corruption... will test the wisdom and courage of the new generation of leaders".

'Sincere speech'

On Twitter and Chinese microblog Weibo, there was varied and animated discussion - despite the work of censors.

Although keywords like Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, "Shiba da" (the 18th congress) and "Zhonggong" (Communist Party of China) were not censored, only posts by accredited accounts were displayed - meaning users' true identities were known and hence shaping the debate.

Start Quote

The important thing is whether they can lead the country in a good direction; whether they can reduce corruption and incompetence in the government”

End Quote Qian Ah Jie Amitabha Netizen

Users got around this by using workarounds including rhyming words, and the phrases like "17+1" and "10+8".

Microbloggers appeared to be appreciative of Xi Jinping's speech. Gao Ning, a business consultant in Beijing, tweeted via Sina Weibo: "State leaders are finally making colloquial speeches! (hands clapping)".

Tencent Weibo user "bobo" in Henan province tweeted: "The new leadership's debut speech was a sincere one. Hope we have a good decade."

Chinese screenplay writer and poet Beichuan tweeted on Sina Weibo: "Xi [Jinping] is more practical. He can make a difference."

Some Weibo users highlighted expectations of the new leadership. User Qian Ah Jie Amitabha wrote: "It's not really important who is the country's leader. The important thing is whether they can lead the country in a good direction; whether they can reduce corruption and incompetence in the government."

Well-known Chinese blogger Zhou Shuguang (Zuola) tweeted: "Xi Jinping becomes the president? According to Chinese traditions, when a new emperor comes to the throne, he will give an amnesty. Let's release [dissidents and activists] Xie Changfa, Guo Quan, Tan Zuoren and Liu Xiaobo from jail! Then we can all celebrate!"

There was also some cynicism at the unveiling, with users writing "We knew all along" and "the line up has long been organised, but they still insist on so-called elections".

Xiamen Cake Seller expressed disappointment over the line-up, saying: "Up until the last moment, the people had no way of knowing who would lead the country for the next five years, this is one of the darkest moments in the world today."

There was criticism of the late start to the press conference where the leaders were revealed - it was scheduled for 11:00 (03:00GMT), but did not start until 11:50.

One user wrote: "As a rule, shouldn't leaders try to be on time?", whilst another joked "perhaps they have started fighting?".

'Mounting discontent'

Abroad, Russian commentaries predict the likelihood of ongoing, warm ties between Moscow and Beijing.

Centrist daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta says the Congress did not bring any surprises; "however, social discontent and environmental problems are growing. According to experts, Russia will stay an important strategic partner in the eyes of China."

"One thing is clear: China will continue the development course it has chosen - socialism with the specific Chinese character," declares state-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Sheng Shiliang, from China's Xinhua news agency, told the paper that "it is vitally important for us, the Chinese, to be sure that we have a reliable friend, Russia, behind our back".

Meanwhile, Mikhail Rostovskiy in the popular daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets expresses tongue-in-cheek envy of China's political system.

"The Chinese have achieved what Russians have failed to do... to regularly replace their leaders... Think about it: Xi Jinping will rule China at most until 2022-23. Whereas it is highly possible that Vladimir Putin will still be Russian president in 2024."

John Harnaut in the Sydney Morning Herald stresses that the transition is the first to take place "beyond the guiding hands of the [People's Republic's] founding revolutionaries".

He adds: "The stakes are high for all nations in the Asia-Pacific, with China on track to overtake the United States as the world's largest economy during Mr Xi's expected decade-long term. China already dominates the Australian economy to a greater extent than any other country since the 1950s."

"Don't expect dramatic change from China's new leaders," Ben Blanchard advises in South Africa's Business Day newspaper. The Congress has appointed "another all-male cast of politicians whose instincts are to move cautiously on reform".

BBC Monitoring contributed to this review. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here

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