Unlike the U.S., where the suspense of who will enter the White House for the coming presidential term will continue to occupy voters’ minds until the very last minute, China’s masses knew for at least the past five years who would run the nation from 2013-2022.

Vice President Xi Jinping, the incoming leader-in-waiting, will be officially “elected” general secretary of the Communist Party of China during the 18th Party Congress, which is set to open on November 8. He will succeed Hu Jintao who ruled China as general secretary and president since 2003.

Xi, 59, the son of one of the leaders of the 1949 revolution that brought the party to power, will also be formally anointed the president during the upcoming National People’s Congress in March. During the upcoming Congress, which gathers both party and nonparty delegates. Vice Premier Li Keqiang, 57, is expected to succeed Wen Jiabao as premier. These two were chosen by party elders in closely veiled, behind-the-scenes negotiations that began half a decade ago.

Xi earned a bachelor’s in chemical engineering and a doctorate in Marxist theory from Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, China’s equivalent to Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Li, who holds a law degree and a doctorate in economics from Peking University, will become the first Chinese premier who was educated in economics. Previous premiers tended to come from engineering backgrounds.

The Communist Party prefers “stability” and has had the tradition of leaders and elders choosing successors for decades. Current leader Hu was handpicked by former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who ruled China in the 1980s and 1990s. Deng also handpicked former president Jiang Zemin, who played a significant role in choosing incoming leader Xi.

“Xi will have his work cut out for him,” says Guan Anping, a Beijing-based securities lawyer and a former government official. “China is entering an era of slower growth. The nation has to drastically overhaul its economic structure, decrease its high dependence on exports and increase domestic consumption to drive sustainable growth.”

While Xi and Li are ensured the top spots, suspense hangs over who will be the other members of the Standing Committee — the ruling council that runs the party and the nation. More than 2,200 party delegates will gather in Beijing for the congress to vote to decide who else joins Xi and Li at the top.