|President Xi Jinping is congratulated by his predecessor Hu Jintao after his election at the fourth plenary meeting of the first session of the 12th National People's Congress on Thursday in Beijing. (Wu Zhiyi / China Daily)|
Xi's presidency begins with simple handshake and applause as lawmakers express confidence about tackling challenges ahead under his leadership.
A handshake signaled the passing of the baton and start of a new era for the world's most populous country. The people of China saw their new head of state elected on Thursday, carrying the dreams and aspirations of about 20 percent of the world's population on his shoulders. Xi Jinping, leader of the Communist Party of China, was elected president by nearly 3,000 deputies to the National People's Congress at a plenary meeting in Beijing. After the election result was announced, Xi stood up, acknowledged the thunderous applause and bowed to the deputies in the Great Hall of the People.
Then, in a gesture rich in symbolism, Xi shook hands with Hu Jintao, president since 2003. The handshake officially marked the dawn of the Xi presidency.
Xi, born in June 1953, took over as head of the CPC and its military commission from Hu in November at the Party's national congress, held every five years. He was also the first Party leader born after October 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded.
Li Yuanchao was elected vice-president on Thursday. Li served as chief of the Party's organization department from 2007 to 2012.
"It's great that we participated in and witnessed this historic moment," said 38-year-old Liang Wentong, a farmer and a new NPC deputy from Guizhou province.
"It was a sacred moment," he said. "The country gave me, a farmer, an opportunity to select our top leaders by vote. China will have a bright future under the new leaders."
The road ahead for the new leadership is not smooth and a number of obstacles have to be negotiated, including economic slowdown, corruption, and livelihood issues, such as healthcare reform and pollution.
After taking office as Party chief in November, Xi repeatedly stressed China should press firmly on with reform and opening-up. He stressed the importance of the rule of law and the campaign against corruption.
In December, the new Party leadership also demanded that officials adhere to the "eight disciplines" under the general umbrella of cutting pomp and circumstance.
Slashing wasteful banquets was one of the proposed measures, and this won warm and widespread public support.
The family background and past careers of the top seven Party leaders, including Xi, were also revealed to the public — a rare departure from normal practice.
"Based on Xi's remarks and his practical attitude, I am confident that under his guidance the leaders can help us achieve our dreams," said Ruan Aixing, an NPC deputy and village official from Jiangping township in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Ruan highlighted one of the issues that need to be addressed.
"I do hope that the income gap between urban and rural regions can be narrowed under the new leadership."
Vasyl Gamianin, the Ukraine charge d'affaires in Beijing, an invited guest at Thursday's voting, said he expected the new leaders to pay more attention to increasing domestic consumption and improving the environment.
"The ecological situation globally is very serious, and China is a very big country that follows the policy of sustainable development, which I firmly support," he said.