Beijing: China's ruling Communist Party is set to appoint a new leadership to head the world's most populous nation amid growing public concerns over galloping wealth gap, corruption and concentration of power in the party that has monopolized the nation's political system since 1949.
The 18th Communist Party Congress to select new leaders mostly "princelings" is taking place today, a day after the hard fought US elections highlighting the sharp contrast between two systems.
Analysts point out that it was not rare that the Congress of the Party which virtually marks a generational leadership change coincided with US elections in the past.
The 16th Congress in which outgoing President Hu Jintao took over power held in November. But China also opened up bit more in the last ten years.
There was speculation that the Congress would be held in October to avoid the timing to coincide with US polls but apparently Bo Xilai scandal and the legal process to convict his wife, various officials and to purge the party of his supporters took awhile for the leadership change.
As per official projections, Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang have already been selected to succeed Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao well before the Congress with 2,270 member delegates even met, which Chinese officials 0say marks the process of continuity and stability.
The other set of leaders to fill the seven or nine-member Standing Committee, the Politburo and the Central Committee were expected to be announced at the end of Congress, which was expected to last for a week.
Ahead of the Congress, a new poll published by the official media here said the widening gap between the rich and the poor has become a major concern among Chinese people.
Communist Party ruled China since the nation's founding in 1949.
An online survey conducted by China Youth Daily showed that an overwhelming 75.4 per cent of the 11,405 respondents believe income disparity will hinder the country's development over the next 10 years.
Other worrying trends include unrestricted power of officials, the expansion of special interest groups, the worsening environment and violating the interests of the disadvantaged, the survey said.
More than 50 per cent of respondents agreed they were concerned about these issues.
Many Chinese say there was no wealth gap in the era of Party founder Mao Zedong though his hard-line Marxian ideology resulted in extreme poverty, which was subsequently overturned by his successor late Deng Xiaoping.
Since then China has emerged as the second largest economy and incomes have risen but the wealth gap spiraled with new rich emerging from the ranks of poor in no time.
According to recent overseas media investigations, the wealth of the family of outgoing Premier, Wen and new President to be, Xi Jinping has grown into billions of dollars, so is the prosperity of the wealthy.
Web users from 31 provinces, municipalities and regions who took part in the online poll said "Income disparity is now the most prominent problem in society”.
"The large income gap is viewed as a result of an unequal distribution system and corruption. The public worries the problem will worsen if authorities fail to crack down on corruption and don't come up with a better plan for income distribution," Wang Xiaolu, vice director with the National Economic Research Institute at the China Reform Foundation, told state-run Global Times.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, employees in the financial industry in 2011 were top income earners with an annual average income of 90,000 yuan (USD 14,391), four times the earnings of workers in farming, forestry and fishing industries who made an average of 20,000 yuan in 2011.
The Party organ People's Daily reported that the gap between the highest and lowest income groups has risen from 7. 3 times in 1988 to 23 times in 2011.
Income distribution reform is highly anticipated by 66.6 per cent of participants, the survey results said.
Another survey conducted by Global Times said most Chinese people believe China should initiate political reform and it reforms should be carried out at a gradual pace.
In the survey in which more than 1,200 people aged over 18 in seven major cities across China took place said that they are most concerned about "economic development and people's livelihoods," which came ahead of "the country's future and policy direction."
While expressing satisfaction China's economic and social development over the past 10 years, about 81.4 per cent of respondents said they support political reform in China and
69.7 per cent of the respondents said they felt that gradual reform is good for the country.
About political reform, over 70 per cent of people wanted public supervision over the state controlled the media.
Strengthening anti-corruption efforts and increasing transparency in government information came as the second and the third, with 69.3 per cent and 66.5 per cent respectively supporting the measures.
When asked "What will be the biggest challenge in the next five years for China in terms of maintaining social stability," corruption jumped to the top of the list with 39.
9 per cent of people saying they believe it is the key problem in China.
Wealth imbalances and defective social security systems came as the second and the third.
Over 70 per cent of the respondents wanted to see more effort from the government in providing medical care, retirement pensions and social security in the next five years.