by Ray Fleming

That the selection of the leaders of the world's two largest economic powers should occur in the same week is an intriguing happenstance. America has chosen its leader for the next four years; China has started consultation on who should have supreme power for the next ten years. There are other and more profound differences, of course, but in passing it may be worth suggesting that the US span is too short and China's too long.

Although America's electoral system is as open as China's is closed, some frank words are being heard in Beijing. President Hu Jintao has told the 2'309 delegates assembled in the Great Hall of the People this week that failure to combat corruption and promote political integrity “could prove fatal to the Communist party and even cause the fall of the state.” The ten years under Mr Hu's guidance have seen tens of millions of Chinese escape from dire rural poverty and begin new lives in the towns and cities; when the West was stricken with a financial crisis four years ago China introduced a huge stimulus that stabilised its own growth and limited the damage to the global economy. President Hu's expected successor Xi Jinping thus inherits a strong economy -- but with it the unavoidable related problems of the growth of consumer choice and awareness of the relationship between the internet and freedom of the individual.