The votes are cast, but the result was never in doubt for this president

Vetted Congress delegates back new ruling elite with Xi Jinping as next leader of the People's Republic

Beijing

The world will wake this morning to a new leader of China as the country's once-in-a-decade change-over ends with the anointment of Xi Jinping as the leader of the People's Republic.

"The Internationale" rang out in Beijing's Great Hall of the People yesterday as President Hu Jintao hailed a victorious Party Congress and set the stage for Mr Xi to replace him.

"The Congress has elected a new Central Committee of the Party and replaced older leaders with younger ones," said Mr Hu in a brief address, almost certainly his last as party leader, although he does not hand over the presidency until March, and it is uncertain when he will step down as head of the People's Liberation Army.

"We should free up our minds, implement the policy of reform and opening up, pool our strength, overcome difficulties, firmly march on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and strive to make progress in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects," he said.

As journalists waited in a neighbouring room, the 2,268 carefully vetted delegates cast their votes for the new Central Committee – a ruling council with around 200 full members and 170 alternate members with no voting rights.

This committee will today appoint a Politburo of a few dozen members and then a Politburo Standing Committee, the elite. There is speculation that the Standing Committee might be reduced to seven members from nine. The Standing Committee will then stroll out on stage this morning at another event in the Great Hall, and by the order in which they emerge, we will know who will be the next leader of the world's most populous country and its second-biggest economy. It is almost certain that it will be Mr Xi.

The incoming leadership will have to address China's growing economic woes, by weaning the economy away from exports and boosting domestic consumption, and also keeping a lid on growing dissent.

All of the main favourites made it on to the Central Committee – the main governing body – including North Korean-trained economist Zhang Dejiang, organisation chief Li Yuanchao and Tianjin party boss Zhang Gaoli. Also elected were Wang Yang, Guangdong province's party boss who is depicted as a reformer, Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng and the only woman in the running, Liu Yandong.

The Party Congress to decide the once-in-a-decade leadership transition began on 8 November with a work report from Mr Hu, and since then the senior cadres have been busy horse-trading behind closed doors at different venues around the city.

The main report ending the 18th Congress was read out by a bureaucrat, while the past, present and future leaders of China sat motionless at a long table overlooked by a giant hammer and sickle, their teacups in front of them.

Among those seated were Mr Hu's predecessor Jiang Zemin, who last year was said to have died, but the octogenarian looked well. Mr Xi sat there, and seemed strangely isolated. No one approached him as the gathering broke up, as if being on the cusp of such great power was wearing heavily on his shoulders.

Also seated at the long table was Premier Wen Jiabao and Li Keqiang, who is expected to succeed Mr Wen next March, and various figures set to feature in the Standing Committee.

The Congress has been overshadowed by the scandal involving the one-time rising star in the party ranks, Bo Xilai, who will probably face trial on corruption charges after the Congress is over. His wife Gu Kailai has been jailed for her part in the murder of the British businessman, Neil Heywood – yesterday was the anniversary of his death.

In Tiananmen Square, outside the Great Hall, soldiers with fire extinguishers stood guard in case any Tibetan activists used the opportunity of the Congress to self-immolate and draw attention to their cause.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there