Growth is the key after Xi's long march to the top

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The Independent Online

Xi Jinping comes from Communist Party of China aristocracy. His father was a major leader under Mao Zedong. Mr Xi started his political career as private secretary to a senior military leader in the early 1980s, then went over to civil government, and worked his way up to province level leadership. Like many of his generation, he typifies the highly diverse administrative experience leaders in modern China need to have to get to the top.

He is also a highly networked individual. Xi's ascendancy has happened by a slow process of getting support, or at least avoiding active opposition, from important elements in the 84-million-strong Party. Most crucially, he has had the support of former President Jiang Zemin, and the relatively benign sanction of retiring Party Secretary Hu Jintao.

This is a leadership transition process that has taken several years to achieve, and involved a painstaking process of consultation and consensus building. But most of that has happened within the upper echelons of the political elite. Just how much social recognition this will get depends, initially, on one thing – economic growth.

What can we expect from Mr Xi? In the short term, very little. He will be working with enormous constraints. His political space will be highly restricted. In the medium to long term, much will depend on how good growth is, and whether China hits an external or internal crisis. Don't expect any revelatory moments in the coming months. He has had to keep his cards close to the chest in the process of becoming leader of China.

The writer is Professor of Chinese Politics at the University of Sydney