Xi Jinping takes control in China with 99.8pc of vote
XI Jinping has become China's new president and paramount leader, carrying 99.86pc of the vote in the Great Hall of the People.
Only one brave delegate to the National People's Congress declined to rubber-stamp Mr Xi's appointment. The other 2,952 members voted in favour with three abstentions.
Mr Xi (59) – who will lead China for the next 10 years – bowed twice before clasping the hand of Hu Jintao, his predecessor, with both hands. "Thank you Party Secretary Hu for your guidance and care," he said.
Later, Mr Xi, who became general-secretary of the Communist Party last November, assumed leadership of the Chinese military, completing his trio as head of party, state and army.
The outcome of yesterday's "democratic" vote was never in doubt. Mr Xi's margin of victory was greater than the 97.62pc won by Bashar al-Assad of Syria in 2007, but shy of Kim Jong-il's commanding 99.98pc of the vote in North Korea in 2009.
On Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, many compared Mr Xi's carefully choreographed ascent to power with the conclave of cardinals selecting the new pope.
"We only found out who was the new pope today, but we knew who would be China's president years ago," said one.
Mr Xi takes over a country that has risen from the world's seventh-largest economy, in competition with Italy, to the world's second-largest in just 10 years.
While he has inherited problems stemming from that breakneck growth, he has already demonstrated – in the past four months – a much greater connection with the public than his predecessor.
In response to public anger, he has launched significant campaigns against the corruption and waste that bedevil the party.
In the last few days he has also abolished the railways ministry, one of the government's most visibly corrupt, and laid the ground for dramatic reforms to China's one-child policy.
"We need to find a new family planning policy to fit with the times," said Huang Jiefu, a former vice-minister at the health ministry, after China's Family Planning Commission was merged into his department. "Where else in the world can you find a family planning bureau? It was quite appropriate to fold it into the ministry."
Analysts have said the move is likely eventually to herald the end of the one-child policy.
Workers directly affected by Mr Xi's policies also signalled their support for the changes.
Li Ning (30), a train driver in north-west China, said the management of the railways ministry was in need of serious change.
"It has always been a self-supervising system," he said. "Promotion was purely based on money and connections. And there were accidents, big ones and fatal ones, several times each month that were never reported to the public.
"Last year, four signalmen died in an accident but no one knew. Now we are part of the transport ministry, our work safety will be stricter."
Chen Jing, a 34-year-old office worker at the former railways ministry, said lay-offs had not yet occurred, but that salaries were already being changed.
"The fixed wages are gone and drivers and conductors will be paid by the hour. And there will be more tests and assessments," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)