China's ruling Communist Party announced a new leadership lineup as President Hu Jintao starts his final five-year term in office.
Hu appears to have strengthened his grip on power, leading a procession Monday of eight men in dark suits into a room in the Great Hall of the People. They stood stiffly in hierarchical order, in front of a mural of the Great Wall in autumn.
Hu then introduced the comrades of the new politburo standing committee, the country's de facto ruling body.
Analysts say this is about as much as Hu can consolidate his own political power. Allies of his predecessor Jiang Zemin have stepped down after reaching the unwritten retirement age of 68. But China Youth Daily journalist Li Datong said that Hu has only enough clout to rule by consensus.
"Hu is the kind of guy who must get the backing of the majority to make key decisions," he says. "But this is not just his character. It's that time has brought us this state of affairs. There is no leader who has more authority than his peers."
Hu appears to have had to compromise on naming a successor. Analysts believed that he wanted to name Li Keqiang, another newcomer to the politburo as his successor. But Shanghai party boss, 54-year-old Xi Jinping, is now in position to succeed Hu.
He Husheng is a party history scholar at People's University in Beijing. He says that Xi Jinping was the leadership's consensus candidate because of his policy expertise in two key areas.
"China needs this sort of person to deal with the practical issues it faces. One is that Xi is very familiar with the Taiwan issue. The other is that he's familiar with economic issues, in particular, Shanghai and the Yangzi River delta which are economically most competitive" He said.
In prepared remarks, Hu repeated his slogans of sustainable economic development and providing more basic services.
"We will conscientiously adhere to scientific, democratic and law-based governance, never fail to uphold integrity and work selflessly for public interests," Hu said.
In his opening speech to the congress, Hu mentioned democracy 60 times.
But analysts agree that judging from his first five years in office the chances are slim that Hu will roll out any big political reforms.
Said He of People's University: "China's politics will definitely become more standardized. It will become more democratic, and the government will pay more attention to the people's livelihood. But any big changes in the political system are out of the question. Don't even hope for that in the next 20 years."
Liu Dasheng, a legal scholar at the Jiangsu Provincial Party School in Nanjing, said it's important to remember that the party congress and its elections are essentially for show, and that the big decisions are made beforehand.
He quotes a Chinese witticism about the communist party: "They hold big meetings to decide small issues. They hold small meetings to decide big issues, and to decide issues of vital importance, they hold no meetings."