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Premier Li Keqiang (left) and President Xi Jinping have prepared for their new roles for the last five years. (Liao Pan / Color China Photo / AP Images)

China’s New President

The government of the world’s most populous nation transfers power to the next generation of leaders

By Tyrus Cukavac | March 19 , 2013
<p>China has the world’s largest population. (Jim McMahon)</p>

China has the world’s largest population. (Jim McMahon)

Americans elected our current President, Barack Obama, last November. Now, the People’s Republic of China has officially announced its new leadership. The National People’s Congress in Beijing named China’s new President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, as well as other top government leaders, last Wednesday.

For most Chinese citizens, the announcement does not come as a surprise. Five years ago, Xi and Li were both selected to succeed (follow) the previous leaders, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

As President, Xi Jinping will serve as the head of the Chinese government, similar to the President of the United States. Premier Li Keqiang will manage much of the Chinese bureaucracy. That is the group of organizations that handle the government’s daily responsibilities.

A DIFFERENT SYSTEM

How does a person become the President of China? The Chinese government runs differently from the United States government. Chinese citizens can vote to elect local leaders. But unlike citizens in the U.S., most cannot vote to choose higher-level positions in government, such as President or Premier.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) selects government officials from high-ranking members within the Party. Both Li and Xi spent many years working as leaders in the Party.

The Party is separate from the Chinese government, which officially runs the country. But the CCP still makes many important decisions for the country.

TIME FOR CHANGE?

The Chinese government changes leadership very rarely. The transition, or change, comes at an important time—the size of China’s economy is second only to the United States’, and it is growing.

The United States and China have a complicated but important relationship. The two countries have been trade partners for many years. But they disagree on many issues, such as the harsh way China treats its citizens. China’s new leaders will need to find common ground to work with the United States on these issues.

More people live in China than in any other country in the world. They have begun to demand more political power, such as freedom of speech. Citizens and reporters there can get in legal trouble for publicly disagreeing with Party leaders. Still, many have recently voiced concerns about corruption (dishonest or criminal behavior) of government and Party officials.

Xi and Li have expressed a desire to reform (improve) China and do what’s right for the country. Xi said in a recent speech, “The only path that can take us [forward] and bring us success is the one chosen by Chinese people and suited to China’s realities.”

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