Media reflect on pivotal moment for China

Members of the new Politburo Standing Committee Xi Jinping (C), Li Keqiang (R) and Zhang Dejiang (L) greet the media at the Great Hall of the People on November 15, 2012 in Beijing, China.
Image caption Xi Jinping has been confirmed as China's new leader for the next decade

Chinese and world media have been reflecting on a pivotal transfer of power at the 18th National Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Chinese dailies emphasise the challenges facing the new leaders, while one Hong Kong daily criticises the entire leadership selection process.

Elsewhere, a Taiwanese commentator sees little likelihood for change in cross-strait policy, while Russian press pundits predict that warm ties with China will continue.

China: "Confidence in continuity"

The state-run China Daily sees the real significance of the Congress as lying in the "reaffirmation of its commitment to reform and opening-up".

It adds: "The ostensible lack of drama throughout the week-long session may disappoint sensation seekers. But the confidence in continuity, instead of revolutionary ideas and dramatic approaches, means a better tomorrow is attainable."

Other commentaries are circumspect. State-run Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times) says the new generation of leaders has taken over "a China that is more powerful, but faces more-complex challenges. The continued rise of China has no precedent in human history, and controlling the affairs of this country is an unprecedented test".

The Global Times adds that coordinating domestic and foreign policy will be arduous: "The issue of how to... minimise Western interference in China's social solidarity and confidence will be a major long-term issue."

Hong Kong: Corruption fight

The Hong Kong press is more forthright in its coverage of the Congress and the challenges facing China.

"If the Communist Party of China cannot wash away its bad habits and the degenerate practice of feudal dynastic rule, it will only repeat the same mistakes," predicts Johnny Lau Yui-siu in Ming Pao.

Other dailies emphasise the appointment of Wang Qishan as the top official tasked with fighting corruption.

According to The Sun: "If he can make a breakthrough in bringing about declarations by officials of their public assets, and the punishment of naked officials [those who send their families and wealth overseas], he is bound to win praise from the people."

Lee Ping in Apple Daily is withering about the mainland's political system. The leadership change is "just another outcome of compromise among the factions involved in a fake election and a real power struggle... This illicit handover of power will only result in official corruption and the promotion of mediocrity."

Taiwan: "Turning point"

Taiwanese commentators home in on China's reform challenges and the future for cross-strait relations.

The Congress proposed "for the first time" that Beijing and Taipei should strive for "fair and reasonable arrangements for cross-strait political relations," notes the Central Daily News. "But it does not include words such as 'as soon as possible' or 'active', so it seems that this issue is not urgent."

"Mainland China still has not shaken off its predicament of left-right struggles," says the Economic Daily News. But the Congress may be a turning point, "as long as officials are determined to start social and political reforms that have stalled for 20 years... This will then be a true 'socialist market economy'."

The Taipei-based China Times says the problems of "an extremely big financial burden caused by a widening gap between the rich and the poor, mounting local debt and an aging population, as well as serious official corruption... will test the wisdom and courage of the new generation of leaders."

Russia: "Reliable friend"

Russian commentaries predict the likelihood of ongoing, warm ties between Moscow and Beijing.

Centrist daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta says the Congress did not bring any surprises. "However, social discontent and environmental problems are growing. According to experts, Russia will stay an important strategic partner in the eyes of China."

"One thing is clear: China will continue the development course it has chosen - socialism with the specific Chinese character," declares state-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Sheng Shiliang, from China's Xinhua news agency, told the paper that "it is vitally important for us, the Chinese, to be sure that we have a reliable friend, Russia, behind our back".

Meanwhile, Mikhail Rostovskiy in the popular daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets expresses a tongue-in-cheek envy of China's political system.

"The Chinese have achieved what Russians have failed to do... to regularly replace their leaders... Think about it: Xi Jinping will rule China at most until 2022-23. Whereas it is highly possible that Vladimir Putin will still be Russian president in 2024."

Australia: "Stakes are high"

John Harnaut in the Sydney Morning Herald stresses that the transition is the first to take place "beyond the guiding hands of the [People's Republic's] founding revolutionaries".

He adds: "The stakes are high for all nations in the Asia-Pacific, with China on track to overtake the United States as the world's largest economy during Mr Xi's expected decade-long term. China already dominates the Australian economy to a greater extent than any other country since the 1950s."

Africa: "Cautious reform"

"Don't expect dramatic change from China's new leaders," Ben Blanchard advises in South Africa's Business Day newspaper. The Congress has appointed "another all-male cast of politicians whose instincts are to move cautiously on reform".

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