Out with the old... China leaders sign off in style
HU JINTAO, the Chinese president, has relinquished his role at the top of the Communist Party, clearing the way for Xi Jinping to take over as the country's paramount leader.
Mr Hu (69) delivered his final speech, declaring a "victorious conclusion" to the 18th Party Congress and calling on delegates to rise as a military band launched into 'The Internationale'.
China's new leaders, with Mr Xi (59) at their helm, will be unveiled today in the Great Hall of the People, in only the second orderly transfer of power since Chairman Mao swept to power in 1949.
After a year of scandals, Mr Hu urged party members to "strive to be role models. We must keep firmly in mind our sacred duties", he said.
To curb the systemic corruption eating the Communist Party from within, one of its most capable and respected senior officials was also elected to its internal discipline commission.
Wang Qishan (64) has a reputation as a troubleshooter. He adroitly managed a debt crisis in Guangdong in the 1990s and was sent to Beijing to respond to an outbreak of the Sars disease in 2003.
After the global financial crisis, Mr Wang was credited with helping to draft the plan that kept the Chinese economy on track. Some hoped he would be put in charge of reforming the Chinese economy, but his likely role at the top of the party's anti-corruption body could be an indication that the fight against graft will be intensified in the years ahead.
As the congress drew to a close, the state media published photographs from around China showing carefully arranged phalanxes of workers, policemen, soldiers and loyal party members watching Mr Hu on television and applauding his words.
In the Great Hall of the People, meanwhile, the party was showing off its "democracy". Unanimous votes rang out in favour of new political and disciplinary reports, and to approve a new constitution.
While the party has trumpeted its internal election process, it declined to give delegates any choice in who would form its new 205-strong Central Committee: the number of candidates exactly matched the available places.
One important change saw "the need to promote ecological progress" written into the constitution. The party has paid particular attention to environmental problems at the congress.
"There is a consensus on environmental protection," said Zhou Shengxian, the environment minister. "We will achieve protection through development and achieve development through protection. This is the new path. We cannot copy the path travelled by developed countries of polluting first and then cleaning up." (© Daily Telegraph, London)