China's Vice President Xi Jinping (front L) and China's Vice-Premier Li Keqiang (front R) leave their seats after the closing session of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China
China's ruling Communist Party unveils a new leadership line-up on Thursday to steer the world's second-largest economy for the next five years, with Vice President Xi Jinping taking over from outgoing President Hu Jintao as party chief.
The new members of the Politburo Standing Committee - the innermost circle of power in China's authoritarian government - will emerge around after a closely controlled vote by the party's new 205-member central committee, which was installed at the end of a five-yearly party congress on Wednesday.
Only Xi and Vice Premier Li Keqiang are certain to be on the new standing committee. Xi will take over Hu's state position in March at the annual meeting of parliament, when Li will succeed Premier Wen Jiabao.
The committee is expected to be reduced to seven seats from nine to make consensus-building easier.
The other preferred candidates, according to sources close to the party leadership, are North Korean-trained economist Zhang Dejiang, financial guru Wang Qishan, minister of the party's organization department Li Yuanchao, Tianjin's party boss Zhang Gaoli, and the conservative Liu Yunshan, who has kept domestic media on a tight leash.
The list of the conservative-leaning preferred candidates was drawn up by Xi, Hu and Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, the sources said.
Wang, currently vice-premier in charge of economic affairs, is popular with foreign investors but seems set to lead the fight against corruption, having been elected to the party's main anti-graft body on Wednesday.
Guangdong's reform-minded party boss Wang Yang, Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng and Liu Yandong, the lone woman, are dark horse candidates.
All eight of these people were on the list for the new central committee, the largest of the party's top decision-making bodies. Exclusion from that committee means a person cannot progress to the Politburo or the standing committee.
The new leadership will emerge on Thursday morning to "meet the press" in a room in the cavernous, Soviet-style Great Hall of the People, which has been decked out in enormous red flags.
Intense secrecy has also surrounded who and how many will be promoted to the Politburo, a council of 20-odd members, and the all-powerful standing committee.
The composition of the two elite bodies could give clues to China's political and economic direction, especially if they end up being dominated by conservatives.