Expect economic reforms to accelerate in China in the coming five to 10 years, propelling a shift to domestic consumption as the driver of growth rather than exports, but don’t get your hopes high for political reforms.

That’s the consensus of many China experts who observed the Communist Party’s 18th Party Congress, which closed this week with the selection of Xi Jinping as the successor to Hu Jintao as general secretary, and six other leaders who will rule the world’s second-largest economy.

Joining Xi, the 59-year-old son of a Communist revolutionary, will be Li Keqiang, 57, the current vice premier. The two men will take over the reins of government in March after their formal appointments by the National People's Congress, with Xi succeeding Hu as president and Li taking over from Wen Jiabao as premier.

Xi earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a doctorate in Marxist theory from Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, China’s equivalent to the 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 have tended to come from engineering backgrounds.

The party also picked five others who will join the two on the Politburo Standing Committee, the nation’s ruling council: Chongqing party chief Zhang Dejiang, 65; Shanghai party chief Yu Zhengsheng, 67; Tianjin party chief Zhang Gaoli, 65; party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, 65; and Vice Premier Wang Qishan, 64, who is also the nation’s economic tsar. The new committee has two fewer members than the previous nine-member group, which analysts believe should foster consensus building and facilitate decision making.

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