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New men at the helm

Newly-elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping (left) speaks as he meets with the press with other new Politburo Standing Committee members (from second left to right) Zhang Gaoli, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Dejiang, in Beijing today.

BEIJING — China’s ruling Communist Party unveiled an older, conservative leadership line-up today that appears unlikely to take the drastic action needed to tackle pressing issues like social unrest, environmental degradation and corruption.

New party chief Xi Jinping, premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang and vice-premier in charge of economic affairs Wang Qishan, all named as expected to the elite decision-making Politburo Standing Committee, are considered cautious reformers.

The other four members have the reputation of being conservative.

The line-up belied any hopes that Xi would usher in a leadership that would take bold steps to deal with slowing growth in the world’s second-biggest economy, or begin to ease the Communist Party’s iron grip on the most populous nation.

“We’re not going to see any political reform because too many people in the system see it as a slippery slope to extinction,” said David Shambaugh, director of the China Policy Programme at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

“They see it entirely through the prism of the Soviet Union, the Arab Spring and the Colour Revolutions in Central Asia, so they’re not going to go there.”

Vice-Premier Wang, the most reform-minded in the line-up, has been given the role of fighting graft, identified by both Xi and outgoing President Hu Jintao as the biggest danger faced by the party and the state.

The run-up to the handover has been overshadowed by the party’s biggest scandal in decades, with former high-flyer Bo Xilai sacked as party boss of southwestern Chongqing city after his wife was accused of murdering a British businessman.

Bo faces possible charges of corruption and abuse of power. (Reuters)

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