China to unveil new leadership line-up as Xi cements power

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the welcoming banquet for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit, in Xiamen, China, in this September 4, 2017 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 October 2017
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China to unveil new leadership line-up as Xi cements power

BEIJING: China is set Wednesday to unveil its new ruling council with President Xi Jinping firmly at the helm after stamping his authority on the country by engraving his name on the Communist Party’s constitution.
In a highly choreographed event, the members of the elite Politburo Standing Committee will appear in public at the palatial Great Hall of the People after they are selected by 204 party officials in conclave.
Xi, 64, is certain to emerge with a second five-year term as the party’s general secretary, with an even stronger mandate to accomplish his ambition of turning China into a global superpower with a world-class military by mid-century.
Premier Li Keqiang, 62, is also expected to retain his seat but the five other men on the current committee are supposed to step down under an unofficial retirement age and be replaced.
But whoever walks out behind Xi will likely have much less influence than their predecessors after the party congress enshrined the Chinese leader’s name in the Communist charter on Tuesday.
The honor has put him in the rarefied company of the nation’s founder Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping, the architect of its economic reforms, and could set the stage for him to stay in power past his second term.
“Xi Jinping’s thought will be China’s signature ideology and the new communism,” the official Xinhua news service wrote in a commentary Tuesday.
The accolade firmly establishes Xi as the country’s locus of power, potentially upending the collective model of leadership promoted by Deng and embraced by Xi’s two predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin.
In the past two administrations, decisions were the result of horse-trading and consultation among members of the standing committee, the council of party elders which has led China since Deng’s death in 1997.
But with his name in the constitution, Xi has become the nation’s ultimate authority, likely giving him the last word on all major decisions.

All eyes will be on who appears when the new standing committee walks out shortly before noon (0400 GMT) following the secret vote by the party’s 204-member Central Committee.
Analysts have been divided about who will fill out the committee’s roster, and whether an heir apparent will appear. Xi himself was elevated to the committee in 2007 and succeeded Hu Jintao as general secretary and president five years later.
Although the new members may not exercise much real power, the results — which are largely expected to be guided by Xi’s preferences — will give some hints about his priorities and his attitude toward the party’s norms.
Even “Mao was not a one-man show,” said Mattias Stepan of Germany’s Mercator Institute for China Studies.
“Xi still needs capable people to stand next to him to promote his agenda.”
At least one important figure will not make the cut.
Xi’s right-hand man Wang Qishan was not on the list of Central Committee members who were elected by the congress Tuesday, meaning he will vacate his seat on the standing committee.
Analysts had thought the 69-year-old leader of the country’s anti-corruption campaign might be kept on in defiance of the party’s unofficial guideline that cadres retire at 68, setting up Xi to stay on after he himself turns 69 in 2022.
Some of the names that have been invoked as contenders for a committee job include vice premier Wang Yang, 62, Xi adviser Li Zhanshu, 67, and top Central Committee official Wang Huning, 62.
Their ages would likely rule them out as potential Xi successors.
Two younger contenders include the new party chief in the mega-city of Chongqing, long-time Xi ally Chen Miner, 57, and Hu Chunhua, 54, who oversees the southern economic powerhouse of Guangdong province.
Only 10 women were elected to the Central Committee, making it unlikely that one of them will become the first woman to join the ruling council since the Communists took power in 1949.


German city of Hamburg ato restrict older diesel vehicles

A car passes a traffic sign showing a ban on diesel cars at the Max-Brauer Allee in downtown Hamburg, Germany, on May 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
Updated 24 min 39 sec ago
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German city of Hamburg ato restrict older diesel vehicles

  • Diesel bans will affect two streets, non-Euro-6 models
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.

BERLIN: Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, will ban the most polluting diesel vehicles from two major streets from next week, a move that could spur others to follow suit and raise pressure on carmakers to consider costly vehicle refits.
Hamburg, home to around 1.8 million people, said on Wednesday the ban would start on May 31 and affect diesel models that do not meet the latest Euro-6 emissions standards.
This follows a ruling in February by Germany’s top administrative court that the cities of Stuttgart and Duesseldorf should consider bans for older diesels.
The detailed publication of that ruling last Friday showed local authorities were entitled to implement targeted bans with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels into line with European Union rules, although curbs affecting wider city areas should only be phased in over time.
Bans on diesel vehicles from city centers are also planned in Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens by 2025, while the mayor of Copenhagen wants to bar new diesel cars from entering the city center as soon as next year.
Since the German ruling was disclosed, the environment minister of Germany’s northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein, has said banning older diesel vehicles could also be an option for the regional capital Kiel, a city of about 250,000 people.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.
Environment Minister Svenja Schulze — a member of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s coalition government — urged carmakers to roll out retrofits for diesel cars to lower emissions. “Driving bans like those in Hamburg show how serious the situation is,” she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “It’s up to the car industry now.”
Levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emitted by diesel engines and known to cause respiratory disease should fall significantly as more efficient Euro-6 models are sold and emissions-cleaning software updates take effect, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.
The bans in Hamburg affect a section of about 1.6 km (one mile) on Stresemannstrasse, where the restrictions will apply only to commercial vehicles weighing 3.5 tons or more, and a section of about 580 meters on Max-Brauer-Allee, covering all diesel vehicles.
Both thoroughfares are in Altona, a busy district in the west of the city.
Drivers aiming for a destination on the two affected streets, including residents, trash collectors, suppliers and taxis, will be exempt from the restrictions as they are designed to filter out through traffic, a spokesman for Hamburg’s environment and energy department said.
Of the 330,000 diesel cars on Hamburg’s roads, only about 116,000 have the Euro-6 technology that was introduced in 2014, according to local government data.
Police will make random checks and fine drivers of older diesel cars 25 euros ($30) and truck owners up to 75 euros for violating the new rules, he said.