World News Brief, Friday November 9

China begins leadership transition; Julia Gillard refuses to meet Iranian leader; UN Secretary General discusses Mali crisis; Greece passes austerity bill; Puerto Rico votes to become an American state; and more

Top of the Agenda: China Begins Leadership Transition

China launched its eighteenth National Congress on Thursday, a once-in-a-decade power transition (BBC) that will see Xi Jinping replace President Hu Jintao and Li Keqiang step in for Premier Wen Jiabao. Hu began the session with a stark message on corruption, warning more than 2,000 delegates that a failure to tackle the issue could "even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state (AP)." While Li and Xi's appointments have been long expected, the exact composition of the committee, which could reduce its number from nine to seven, will not be revealed until next week. The highly scrutinized transition has been fraught by political scandal, fueled by media reports about the wealth and graft of the ruling Communist Party.


"China's vested interests are a roadblock to change. When leaders sought to improve labour rights, exporters cried bloody murder. So entangled is power and money that the incumbents resisting change and the party supposedly fostering it are one and the same thing. In short, collectivist leadership will curb any lurking Chairman Mao tendencies Mr Xi may have and vested interests will seek to squash his inner Deng Xiaoping. That is, of course, assuming Mr Xi wants to push through change," writes David Pilling for the Financial Times.

"In China, as anywhere else, a crisis can catalyse reform or revolution. Pray that it is reform. This increasingly urgent reform, if it happens, will not result in a western-style liberal democracy any time soon, if ever. But even some Communist party analysts acknowledge that, in China's own long-term national interest, the changes will need to go in the direction of more rule of law, accountability, social security and ecologically sustainable development," writes Timothy Garton Ash for the Guardian.

"Dissidents and other undesirables were hustled out of Beijing for the 18th Party Congress or otherwise kept confined from public view—a show of the Chinese security's state's octopus-like grasp on society. The police presence in Beijing now is overwhelming. Hu's Opening Ceremony speech gave little indication of real political openness in the future," writes Hannah Beech for TIME.



Australian PM Refuses to Meet Ahmadinejad

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard ramped up her criticism of Iran over its nuclear program and again ruled out a meeting (Australian) with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Bali, where world leaders are attending a two-day forum on democracy.



UN Secretary General discusses Mali crisis

Greece passes austerity bill

Puerto Rico votes to become an American state


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