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Chinese premier re-elected for another term

Latest update : 2008-03-16

China's National People's Congress gave Wen Jiabao, ranked third in the Communist Party hierarchy, a second five-year mandate with 2,926 votes for, 21 against and 12 abstentions.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was re-elected Sunday for five more years as simmering unrest in Tibet threatened to badly tarnish his government's image just months before the Olympics.
  
Wen, 65, was the sole candidate for the job. Xinhua news agency, which reported from the National People's Congress, or parliament, did not immediately give the number of votes cast in favour of Wen.
  
His re-election completes the top leadership line-up for the next half-decade, the legislature having given President Hu Jintao another five-year term on Saturday.
  
About 3,000 kilometres (1,800 miles) away, in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, the situation was calm but tense two days after violent clashes between protesters and police that left at least 10 dead.
  
The unrest could not have come at a worse time as the world's focus on China is as intense as ever, and likely to build further, as the August start of the Beijing Olympics approaches.
  
Another source of embarrassment is the Wen administration's pet project of building up a "harmonious society", which clashes with the situation in Tibet today.
  
Dealing with international public opinion will prove harder than putting down the dissent in Tibet, analysts said.
  
"It's going to be a very tough PR challenge. But basically China is still in very firm control in Tibet," said Joseph Cheng, an expert on China at the City University of Hong Kong.
  
While the premier is nominally number three in China's political system, the position is widely seen as the second-most important, after that of Communist Party secretary general, an office currently held by Hu, 65.
  
Wen has been in charge of the management of the economy, which often presents formidable challenges, as China seeks to open up to the world at the same time as it dismantles the remnants of its past socialist system.
  
In recent months, Wen has led China's struggle to rein in inflation, which is now at its highest level in nearly 12 years, eroding many of the monetary gains ordinary Chinese have had from rapid economic growth.
  
Efforts to keep inflation in check have been moderately successful at best -- prices are still rising fast -- suggesting the government is having a harder time controlling the economy than in the past when much of it was state-owned.
  
China's parliament, widely regarded as a rubber-stamp body, also elected Xi Jinping, 54, as vice president on Saturday, setting him up to succeed Hu in five years.
  
The unrest in Tibet throws into high relief the missing piece in China's ambitious reform endeavour: the absence of political freedom, according to analysts.
  
"The ultimate problem is that despite economic growth and improvement in social services and also some improvement in governance... you still have problems," said Cheng.
  
"The most serious lesson for the Chinese authorities is that in the end when the regime wants to control everything, there is a denial of basic rights for the people. There is no democracy, and so you still have tension."
  
Mao Shoulong, a professor of public administration at Renmin University in Beijing, said he did not believe political reform would be top priority in the next five years.
  
"Basically, the leaders regard the current period as a strategic opportunity for China's economic and social development, so probably they would rather put aside political reform for the time being," he said.

Date created : 2008-03-16

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