Major newspapers in the world all praised China's completion of "smooth and orderly" transfer of power to a younger generation over the weekend.
Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin resigned on Sunday as chairman of the Central Military Commission, turning the job over to his successor Hu Jintao, who is also China's president and general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
The resignation of Jiang, 78, announced at the close of a four-day meeting of the Party's Central Committee, for the first time put Hu Jintao, 61, formally in command of all the Party, government and military.
The shift, although important for the smooth working of the Chinese government, was unlikely to produce swift or radical changes in the way Beijing approaches its relations with the United States, its resolve to reunify Taiwan, or its effort to continue moving the nation toward a market economy while maintaining growth and social stability, the Washington Post reported.
Jiang's resignation from top leadership, giving Hu authority as military chief as well as president and Party leader, removes a sometimes awkward situation in which senior officials had complained of "having two lines of command", the newspaper said.
China's state-run television CCTV, which devoted its entire Sunday evening newscast to the event, showed Jiang and Hu walking together in the Great Hall of the People, applauded by the 198-member Central Committee to mark the moment when the ambiguity ended.
A newscaster said that in his resignation letter, dated September 1, Jiang expressed confidence in Hu's ability to direct the military and said he had long looked forward to full retirement.
Hu took over from Jiang as Party leader in October 2002 and replaced him as president in March 2003, moving into what the Chinese people call the fourth generation of leadership after Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin.
An Internet commentator said Sunday night that "the mass of the people are now hopeful," while suggesting that Jiang's departure could ease efforts by Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao to improve the lot of Chinese pushed aside by free-market reforms. Many Chinese have expressed support for Wen's gestures in that regard -- for instance, ordering that migrant workers receive back pay sometimes held by employers, said the newspaper.
Hu Jintao has deftly handled the first big crisis of his leadership in the spring of 2003, when China faced the SARS epidemic that top health officials had initially covered up. Hu sacked two senior officials and ordered a broad mobilization to combat the disease, which was controlled within weeks, the New York Times reported.
Hu has also sought to draw a contrast with Jiang, making trips to China's poorest areas and shunning some conspicuous perks such as lavish seeing-off ceremony while state leaders went abroad on official visits. He pledged to raise the incomes of workers and peasants and redirect more state spending to areas left behind in China's long economic boom.
"Use power for the people, show concern for the people and seek benefit for the people," Hu said in remarks early in his term as Party chief.
In a speech delivered last week, he referred to Western-style democracy as a "blind alley" for China. He has a plan for political reform, but it mostly involves injecting transparency and competitiveness within the single-Party system to make officials police themselves better, the newspaper said.
(Chinadaily.com.cn September 23, 2004)