Xi Jinping is set to take the reins of China's all-powerful Communist Party Thursday in a leadership transition that will put him in charge of the world's number two economy for the next decade.
Xi, the current vice president and successor to President Hu Jintao, assumes power at an uncertain time with the party facing urgent calls to clean its ranks of corruption and overhaul its economic model as growth stutters.
His long-expected ascension as head of the ruling party is expected to take place before midday (0400 GMT) with the unveiling of a new Politburo Standing Committee, the nation's top decision-making body.
Paramilitary guards walk on a closed-off Tiananmen Sqaure, near the Great Hall of the People prior to the unveiling of a new Politburo Standing Committee, in Beijing on November 15, 2012. Xi Jinping is set to take the reins of China's all-powerful Communist Party in a leadership transition that will put him in charge of the world's number two economy for the next decade.
According to tradition, the members are marched out before the media in a pecking order agreed after years of factional bargaining, a process which intensified in the months leading up to the five-yearly reshuffle.
Xi will consolidate his position at the apex of national politics by being named China's president by the rubber-stamp legislature next March, for a tenure expected to last through two five-year terms.
The standing committee, which had nine members under Hu but could be slimmed to seven, is also widely expected to include Vice Premier Li Keqiang, which would set him on the path to be be appointed premier from next March.
They will be tasked with addressing a rare deceleration of economic growth that threatens the party's key claim to legitimacy -- continually improving the livelihoods of the country's 1.3 billion people.
A graphic showing the leadership structure of the Chinese Communist Party
China also bubbles with localised unrest often sparked by public rage at corruption, government abuses, and the myriad manifestations of anger among the millions left out of the country's economic boom.
The communists have a monopoly on political power in China and state appointments are decided within the party.
The process began with behind-the-scenes horse-trading and political deals. It was essentially finalised on Wednesday when the party ended a week-long week-long congress by announcing a new Central Committee of 205 people.
Chinese vice president Xi Jinping votes during the closing of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Xi is set to take the reins of China's all-powerful Communist Party Thursday in a leadership transition that will put him in charge of the world's number two economy for the next decade.
On Thursday, the Central Committeewas set to approve higher leadership bodies including the elite Politburo Standing Committee.
Observers believe two main factions are jockeying for power, one centred largely on proteges of former president Jiang Zemin and another linked to allies of Hu.
Xi is considered a consensus figure who leans toward Jiang, while Li has long been seen as a Hu protege.
Analysts say that despite rivalries between the two camps which are largely divided on patronage lines, they broadly agree China must realign its economy away from a dependence on exports, while maintaining a firm hand on dissent.
Beijing has ramped up security in Beijing and on the nation's popular social media sites to prevent any criticism during the gathering.
The run-up to this year's congress was unsettled by events surrounding Bo Xilai, a political star seen as a candidate for a top post until a scandal in which his wife was convicted of murdering a British businessman.
The sensational affair torpedoed Bo's political career -- he will face trial for charges of corruption and abuse of power -- and added to the intrigue in the run-up to the transition.