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Letter from Beijing

World's eyes turn to China for leadership transition

Nothing beats Beijing during autumn and winter. Especially if you're from a tropical country like Thailand, where the only seasons you get are rainy, hot, rainy and hotter.



I am on an assignment to cover the 18th National Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and its once-in-a-decade transition of power.

This morning the pavement along Chang'an Avenue seems so … far … from the Great Hall of the People, the venue of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Usually, it's a 15-minute walk from my hotel in the Wang Fu Jing Road shopping area. Today, we had to take a detour.

First, we had to brave a crowd of local and foreign tourists who were unable to enter Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City due to the tight security, which included checkpoints and barriers set up along the pavement and subway entrances to seal off a perimeter around the venue. After navigating our way through the fences we had to get through another layer of security set up around the Great Hall itself. There seemed to be a checkpoint every metre or so, not to mention police and military officers stationed at each corner of every intersection along Chang'an Avenue.

When we finally made our way to the entrance of the Great Hall, a 2,000 strong army of reporters, journalists and other media personnel were set up outside. Quite literally, the eyes of the world are on this historic event, the selection of the leaders of the world's second-largest economy and the unveiling of China's plans to tackle its economic issues.

The two-and-a-half-hour ceremony outlined a firm stance on China's reform plans, aiming to convey the impression that the leaders know which direction they want to head in. One of key statements is about the underlying theme of the congress is "to uphold the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics".

This is an interesting phrase. "Chinese characteristics" means China will continue to carry out reform of the political structure in the Chinese way; what Hu means is that Beijing will never follow in the West's political footsteps.

As far as public perception of the congress goes, what the Chinese people most want to know can be summed up as follows: Who will eventually form the politburo, and who's going to take up the key leadership positions? How is the government going to address the wellbeing of society in all respects? Will it accelerate reforms in general? And how will the party maintain its purity and uphold integrity in the political arena?

I know these are questions we are all awaiting answers to.




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