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XI JINPING BECOMES CHINA LEADER AMID REFORM CALLS

Associated Press

BEIJING - Xi Jinping became leader of China today, securing the Communist Party's top spot and oversight of the military in a political transition upset by scandals that have added fuel to public demands for change as the country faces slower economic growth.

Xi's elevation to party general secretary and chairman of the commission that oversees the People's Liberation Army was announced in a dispatch by the state Xinhua News Agency, after a weeklong party congress that underlined the communists' determination to remain firmly in power.

Xi, 59, will lead a new seven-member collective leadership of technocrats: Li Keqiang, the presumptive premier; Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang; Shanghai party secretary Yu Zhengsheng; propaganda chief Liu Yunshan; Vice Premier Wang Qishan; and Tianjin party secretary Zhang Gaoli.

The members of the new panel filed onto stage at the Great Hall of the People and Xi addressed the gathered reporters.

The son of a party elder, and vice president for the past five years, Xi will lead the world's No. 2 economy and newest diplomatic and military power amid increasingly vocal calls for economic and political reform - including from within the 82 million-member party itself.

At ease with colleagues, Xi takes over the party leadership from the stiff and technocratic Hu Jintao, and is expected to assume the presidency in March.

Several political insiders say Hu, 69, is also likely to hand over the post of civilian chairman of the military to Xi, the New York Times reported. It would be the first time since the promotion of the ill-fated Hua Guofeng in 1976 that a Chinese leader has taken office at the same time as head of the party and of the military.

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