Friday, 15 March 2013

Where Do We Go From Here?

Li Keqiang looks like an excited school boy, Xi Jinping has a knowing look
Xi and Li are (finally) in the house.

Fifty-seven-year-old Li Keqiang was confirmed as Premier today, while Xi Jinping won all of the nearly 3,000 votes from deputies of the National People's Congress except for one.

Who was that one dissenter? Or was this China's pathetic way of making it look like it wasn't a complete landslide victory that we all knew was pretty much a done deal a year ago?

In any event, Xi's swift ascension to power beats predecessor Hu Jintao's two-year-battle to assume all the top positions, while Jiang Zemin had an even more frustrating four years after becoming party chief in 1989.

While the assumption of full control will be good for Xi, where to begin?

The pair face a number of daunting issues, including an overheated property market, the environment, and boost domestic spending. There's also the pressing issue of what to do with North Korea and how should relations between China and the United States continue from here.

Some foreigners may be optimistic that Li speaks fluent English in the hopes it may grease the cogs, but analysts believe Li's concern of saying the wrong thing will only result in him speaking Chinese in order to avoid a domestic audience chastising him for kowtowing to foreigners. Nevertheless we can see him making small talk in English which will definitely ease formalities and perhaps even make him a darling of the media if he plays his cards right.

We are also wondering if Xi's anti-corruption drive will stick. So far it has put fear in many officials who have had fire sales of apartments they have hoarded and shares of Chinese spirits have plunged due to poor sales. We wonder if there will be more mistresses on the market too.

Pope Francis has also marked a stark change in the Vatican, shunning the ermine robes and bright red shoes Pope Benedict used to wear. The new pope also insisted on taking the bus and paying for his hotel room to demonstrate frugality in the Catholic church.

However, we can see security insisting Pope Francis take the "Pope mobile" in the future, so he may have to pick his battles.

But it will be interesting to see how Xi and Li and the new pope clean up their respective houses and set a new tone for their administrations.

Even better would be to see a convergence of the two and come to some kind of agreement in Catholicism in China.

One wonders if that would require some divine intervention.

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