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Will China's new leaders implement bold reforms?

China's Communist Party transitioned to new leadership peacefully on Thursday. Rapid growth over the past decade has left the Chinese public wanting more. Will the new government deliver? 

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China is more prosperous than a decade ago when Hu and Wen took charge, but the pursuit of prosperity has dramatically widened the gap between rich and poor, to the fury of many average citizens.

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The United Nations says 13 percent of China's 1.3 billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day. But the country also has 2.7 million U.S. dollar millionaires and 251 billionaires, according to the Hurun Report, a Shanghai-based luxury publishing house which compiles China's Rich List.

Ordinary Chinese are especially fed up with the wealth accumulated by many party members.

The issue has never been as sensitive as it is now, in the wake of the scandal surrounding former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, who has been accused of corruption and abuse of power. Foreign media reports detailing the wealth amassed by the families of Wen and Xi have also sparked an outcry online.

In a speech after being introduced as the new party secretary-general, Xi said the party must tackle corruption. In his final work report last week, outgoing President Hu called it a "life or death" issue for the party.

Growth not enough 

Both urban and rural Chinese are restive. The number of protests continue to rise, while China's reintegration into the global economy over the last three decades has meant the country is getting swept along by - and indeed helping drive - technological revolution as it modernizes and invests half its national income every year in fixed assets, infrastructure and technology.

The ability of ordinary Chinese to send instant messages, write blog posts and take photographs of demonstrations over issues such as corruption and pollution puts further stress on a party determined to control the flow of information within China's borders.

The thread that connects the good and the bad - increased prosperity and increased inequality, a growing middle class and outrageous corruption - is China's relentless economic growth. Even that, in the view of many economists, is in question.

The need to restructure how China achieves its growth - by emphasizing consumption over investment and exports - would mean major policy changes such as loosening the dominance of state companies across many industries.

"At this juncture, if the (new leadership) doesn't move quickly, the consequences will be clear and immediate," said Daniel Rosen, an economist and head of the Rhodium Group, a New York-based consultancy.

"GDP growth will deteriorate within six to nine months, and that will have consequences. I don't think they get even a one-year honeymoon."

The party has earned its legitimacy with a broad swathe of the populace with rapid economic growth. However, growth has fallen for seven straight quarters, hitting 7.4 percent in the July-September period. Should growth falter further, discontent will rise.

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