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Xi Jinping takes China's reins. Will he promote political reform? (+video)

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In a brief speech notable for its almost casual delivery, Xi signaled what may become his policy priorities. “Our people … wish to have a better education, more stable jobs, greater social security, better medical and health care, improved housing conditions, and a better environment,” he said. “To meet their desire for a happy life is our mission.”

Not once did he mention economic growth, which has been a mantra of previous Chinese administrations, and a goal to be achieved at all costs, for three decades.

Looking forward to ... reform?

The new Chinese leader, who will become national president in March, made no bones about problems within his party, among which he mentioned “corruption, being divorced from the people, going through formalities, and bureaucratism.”

How successful Xi will be in tackling such problems, however, is uncertain, say some critics. “I believe Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang have strong reform genes in their blood, and they will not be constrained by former leaders’ conservatism,” says Chen Ziming, a Beijing-based political analyst who was jailed for several years for his role in the Tiananmen uprising in 1989. “But they are surrounded by old men who do not meet peoples’ demands for more democracy or more reform.”

Notable by their absence from the new lineup are two younger reputed reformers, Li Yuanchao, who heads the party’s Organization Department, and Wang Yang, party boss in the southern province of Guangdong.

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