MANILA, Philippines --- The Philippine government congratulated the new China President Xi Jinping and pledged to promote “a climate of mutual trust and cooperation” to improve the stability in the region.
Xi, appointed to the Communist Party’s top post last November, replaces outgoing President Hu Jintao following a formal vote at the National People’s Congress.
“The Philippines extends its sincere congratulations as Mr. Xi Jinping assumes the presidency of the People’s Republic of China by means of the 18th National Congress and his election as General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
“We will seek all opportunities to help build a climate of mutual trust and cooperation to enhance stability in our region so that the positive economic momentum of our respective nations may be sustained,” he added.
Lacierda noted that China views the assumption of Xi as an auspicious moment amid efforts to sustain prosperity and stability.
“This is a sentiment shared by all peoples of good will, who look forward to opportunities for positive engagement fortified by trust, good will, and cooperation, for the mutual benefit of all peoples in our region and around the world,” he said.
The elevation of Xi to the presidency by the national legislature gave him the last of the three titles held by his predecessor, Hu Jintao. The move was expected after Xi was named head of the Communist Party and chairman of its military, positions of true power, last November in a once-a-decade handover to a new group of leaders that has been years in the making.
Despite being formally in charge, it will be within the party’s top ranks – in which powerful people are often divided by patronage, ideology or financial interests – that Xi will find the biggest challenges.
This will be doubly so if he follows through on his pledge to tackle the endemic graft he has pinpointed as detrimental to the party’s survival, said Willy Lam, a China politics watcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Graft is deeply ingrained in the party’s patronage-based culture and those at the top – many of whose families have benefited from their political connections – are believed to be most resistant to anti-corruption measures that diminish their prerogatives.
“He has to walk a fine line,” Lam said. “If he were really serious about going after senior cadres, he might establish his authority within the rank and file, however, that would also jeopardize his relationship with the power blocs and with the holders of vested interests.”
Xi’s accession marks only the second orderly transfer of power in more than six decades of communist rule. He was the only candidate for president in Thursday’s vote in the country’s figurehead parliament, the National People’s Congress.
Delegates gathered in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People voted 2,952-to-1 for Xi in balloting that amounts to a political ritual echoing the decisions of the party leadership. Three delegates abstained.
Named vice president in a vote of 2,839-80 was Li Yuanchao, a liberal-minded reformer and a close ally for decades of Hu. The move breaks with the practice of recent years, because Li is not in the party’s seven-member ruling inner sanctum, but is seen as a concession to Hu’s lingering influence and as a reward to a capable if not wholly popular official.
Xi takes charge at a time when the public is looking for leadership that can address sputtering economic growth and mounting anger over widespread graft, high-handed officialdom and increasing unfairness. A growth-at-all-costs model that defined the outgoing administration’s era has befouled the country’s air, waterways and soil, adding another serious threat to social stability.
Underlying public unhappiness with the party is a deficit in trust.
“At present, the party and the government have very little public credibility,” said Zhang Ming, a China politics expert at the prestigious Renmin University in Beijing. “The way to regain credibility is to at least show some results, but at this point that can’t be seen and I predict there won’t be any real results later.”
Ahead of the votes on the government’s top slots, legislators approved a government restructuring plan only four days after it was introduced.
The streamlining, among other things, abolishes the Railways Ministry, combines two agencies that regulate newspapers and broadcasters into a super media regulator and merges the commission that oversees the much-disliked rules that limit many families to one child into the Health Ministry.
It also joins four agencies that police fisheries and other maritime resources into one bureau to better assert China’s claims over disputed waters, potentially sharpening conflicts with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines
Relations between the Philippines and China have turned sour in recent months over a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Recently, the Philippine government raised its complaint against China’s alleged intrusion in its legitimate waters before a United Nations arbitration tribunal. But China has rejected Manila’s move to seek the UN intervention, insisting it has sovereignty over the entire South China Sea encompassed by its nine-dash line claim.
The Philippines, on the other hand, maintained that the arbitration route is the friendly, peaceful and durable form of dispute settlement to resolve the territorial conflict.