— After months of speculation and a messy political scandal, China's Communist Party leaders have selected a new group of seven men to be the country’s core leaders and set its agenda for the coming decade.
China’s Xi Jinping has succeeded Hu Jintao, taking over his top positions as head of the Communist Party and the country’s powerful military.
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The new group of men tasked with guiding the world’s second largest economy is rising up as China’s fifth generation of leaders at a time when the country is facing a vast range of challenges and when calls for reform are growing.
Xi seemed keenly aware of those problems and mentioned them directly in a short but pointed address that political analysts say is setting the tone for his tenure in office.
"Our people have a fervent love for life," he said. "They wish to have better education, more stable jobs, more income, greater social security, better medical and health care, improved housing conditions, and a better environment."
China's new Politburo Standing Committee members (from L to R) Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli, arrive to meet with the press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 15, 2012.
Chinese Communist Party delegates from the People's Liberation Army enter the Great Hall of the People, for the closing ceremony for the 18th Communist Party Congress, Beijing, November 14, 2012.
China's leaders raise their hands to show approval for a work report at the closing ceremony for the 18th Communist Party Congress, Beijing, November 14, 2012.
Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, center, Propaganda chief Li Changchun, left, and head of Political and Legislative Affairs Committee Zhou Yongkang raise their hands during the 18th Communist Party Congress, Beijing, November 14, 2012.
From left, Central Commission for Discipline Inspection head He Guoqiang, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, People's Political Consultative Conference Chairman Jia Qinglin, National People's Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Communist Party Congress, November 14, 2012.
A soldier dressed as an usher, front, guards the stairs to the Great Hall of the People, while a Chinese Communist Party delegate poses for photos ahead of the closing ceremony of the 18th Communist Party Congress in Beijing, China, November 14, 2012.
A family walks in front of a screen showing propaganda displays on a bridge in Shanghai, China, November 8, 2012.
Delegates chat outside of the Guangxi room before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, the venue of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, November 8, 2012.
A man walks past official propaganda to welcome the Chinese Communist Party's 18th Congress which held in Beijing, at a bookstore in Shanghai, China, November 8, 2012.
Chinese soldiers walk past the Great Hall of the People where the opening session of the 18th Communist Party Congress is being held in Beijing, November 8, 2012.
A huge screen shows a broadcast of Chinese President Hu Jintao speaking at the opening session of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 8, 2012.
A Chinese man watches a news broadcast of Chinese President Hu Jintao speaking at the opening session of the 18th Communist Party Congress as he eats his dinner in his home in Beijing, November 8, 2012.
Xi also spoke about the growing concern of Communist Party officials’ abuse of power and corruption.
"The problems among our party members and cadres of corruption, taking bribes, being out of touch with the people, undue emphasis on formalities and bureaucracy must the addressed with great efforts. The whole party must be vigilant against them," he said.
While his comments about corruption and the problems China is confronting were not new, his style is markedly different from past Chinese leaders.
David Zweig, a political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology said Xi came across as very relaxed in his first address and noted that Xi apologized to reporters for making them wait. Zweig noted that Xi's comments about China wanting to be a part of the world echo his career and personality.
"He has been around, he has dealt with the West, he has lived in Fujian for a long time, he dealt with the outside world, he dealt with Taiwan, he dealt with Hong Kong, " said Zweig. "And he's you know he's worked in Shanghai, he has worked in Zhejiang, he is a coastal guy, spent time in the U.S., he did very well in his trip to the United States."
Political analysts say that in the time that Xi has served as China’s vice president he has traveled overseas about 50 times, while his predecessor Hu Jintao has made less than 20 trips overseas.
The contrast between China’s outgoing leader and Xi attracted comments online. One user of China’s Twitter-like microblogging service Weibo posted a comparison of outgoing leader Hu Jintao’s speech when he became party chief a decade ago and Xi Jinping’s remarks. The posting noted Xi’s added references to the Chinese people, the risks the party is facing and his apology to reporters.
Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political scientist at Hong Kong Baptist University, said Xi is trying to move away from party jargon.
"That is a good change from Hu Jintao, who really in his opening speech was terribly traditional in his language, underscoring a distance with the society, which is a subject of concern, including within the ruling elite." Cabestan said. "The new party leadership needs to manage relations with the society after a few months of a series of scandals affecting top politburo members."
Cabestan added it is not only the style that needs to change in China, but also the way the new leadership runs the country.
"I think the trouble is they are united about a number of things, but they are divided about more daring and more political reforms. They are united about the need to move towards another growth model - consumption led growth models - it will take more time than expected," he said.
For his part, Xi indicated he is looking to the public for support and pledged in his address to do everything he could to fulfill his mission as China’s new leader.
"Our strength lies in the people," said Xi. "We know full well that the capability of any individual is limited. But as long as we are united as one, there is no difficulty that we cannot overcome. An individual only has a limited time in office, but there is no limit to serving the people heart and soul.”
Such soaring appeals for public unity are a reminder of the big challenges ahead. Analysts say Xi’s biggest test is steering a course that satisfies both a public hungry for greater openness in political and economic systems with conservative party members who are reluctant to embrace change.