Xi Jinping Era Begins in China as Secretive Leadership Lineup Unveiled

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The rest of the Standing Committee has been a source of speculation for months, especially since the spectacular fall of Bo Xilai earlier this year when his wife was accused and later found guilty of murdering a British businessman. Bo was expecting to be standing there on the dais today as a member of the Standing Committee.

The final lineup was unknown until they walked out with Xi.

Xi's colleagues for at least the next five years will be (in the order of seniority):

Li Keqiang, 57 is expected to be China's next premier, in charge of governing the world's most populous nation. Li is a trained lawyer, speaks fluent English and attended Peking University as a friend and contemporary of some of the pro-democracy leaders in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. He remained loyal to the Party while seeing many of his friends flee into exile. He is a protégé of Hu Jintao and is seen as a liberal, reform-minded member of the Chinese leadership.

Zhang Dejiang, 66, was appointed to run the western Chinese megacity of Chongqing after Bo Xilai's ouster. He studied economics in North Korea and for the past few years has overseen China's telecommunications and energy industries as vice premier. He is expected to be the Chairman of the National People's Congress in the new leadership.

Yu Zhengsheng, 67, is the party boss of Shanghai. Yu is a "princeling" with close ties to both former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. He is credited with helping to launch China's best-known brands overseas: Tsingtao Beer and Haier appliances. His political career was able to survive after his brother defected to the United States in the mid-1980s.

Liu Yunshan, 65, is Communist Party's propaganda chief. In a previous career, he was a journalist for the state-run Xinhua News Agency and worked in PR. He will most likely continue to oversee China's heavy-handed media censorship machine.

Wang Qishan, 64, another "princeling," is well known to U.S. leaders and has worked closely with his American counterparts U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Henry Paulson in setting up strategic and economic talks between the two countries. Wang has developed a reputation as a problem solver especially when he was appointed as Beijing mayor at the height of SARS epidemic. He opted for decisive quarantines and transparency instead of covering it up like his predecessor.

Paulson once called him as "decisive and inquisitive" and said that he possessed a "wicked sense of humor." Like Li, Wang is considered one of the more reform-minded leaders, although he might have little time to focus on that since the party tasked him today with investigating its own as head of the anti-graft commission.

And last but not least, Zhang Gaoli, 66, is the party boss of the affluent port city of Tianjin. He is known to maintain a low profile but has steadily worked up the ranks of the party getting key postings as party boss of the Southern Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen and the coastal province of Shandong.

The Standing Committee will serve a five-year term and many China watchers have noted that by 2017, all the members, apart from Xi and Li, will be past the mandatory retirement age. There might be a whole new leadership in a few years time.

Xi's speech struck a surprising populist and unifying tone.

"The people are sources of our strength," Xi said. "We deeply know that the capability of any individual is limited, but as long as we unite as one, there is no difficulty we cannot overcome. An individual only has limited time in office, but there's never a limit to serve the people heart and soul."

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