China leader Xi Jinping set for presidential role

China's new leader and head of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping. Picture: AFP
China's new leader and head of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping. Picture: AFP
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CHINA’S new leader Xi Jinping is capping his rise by adding the largely ceremonial title of president in an expected vote Thursday by the rubberstamp national legislature.

His elevation to the presidency will give 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.

The National People’s Congress gathered Thursday in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People for the vote for president in balloting that amounts to a political ritual echoing the party leadership’s decisions. They also were voting on the vice presidency and other key positions.

Ahead of those votes, the 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.