Foreign Policy

Xi Jinping's Challenge

Now that the U.S. election finally is over, it's time to focus on the other most important leadership transition in the world: China's.

Like the United States, China is also at a turning point, and though the specifics differ, the crux of the problem is the same: major structural change is critical to sustained future growth and stability, but the country's current leaders have been unable, or unwilling, to implement the necessary reforms to shift its economy onto a path of sustainable development.

If anything, China's heirs apparent have the harder task.

Unlike Barack Obama, for instance, the incoming leader Xi Jinping won't be able to choose most of his own team. Beginning Nov. 8, when the Communist Party convenes its 18th Party Congress, and continuing in March 2013, Beijing will in two steps replace about 70 percent of the incumbents in its top communist party, government, and military bodies. China watchers expect Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang to ascend to the most powerful two spots on the Politburo Standing Committee, the country's highest decision-making body, but nobody outside a small circle of insiders knows who will fill the other 5-7 spots -- let alone what those individuals think about how to run the world's second-biggest economy and one of its major military powers.

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