China's new advisory legislative body on Sunday began its annual session commencing the once-in-a-decade power transfer to a new leadership headed by Xi Jinping from the outgoing government led by Hu Jintao.
The 2,200-member Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference comprising, perhaps for the first time with majority of non-ruling Communist Party members, began its annual session kicking off China's yearly political event during which its legislators meet.
The CPPCC, an advisory body unlike the National People's Congress, has in its ranks top film stars and literary personalities like Jackie Chan and last year's winner of Nobel Prize for literature Mo Yan besides top sportsmen and religious personalities.
Outgoing President Hu followed by the newly-elected Communist Party leader Xi Jinping along with a mix of old and new leaders took the podium of the CPPCC inaugural session telecast live from the Great Hall of the People.
Xi, 59, who took over as the party and military chief would be formally nominated as President when NPC begins its session on March 5 marking the end of the era of Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao who steered the country for a decade during which China emerged as the second largest economy after the United States.
While the power transfer which began with the election of Xi as Party leader last November went on smoothly so far, the next week was regarded crucial as all top government appointments including the new cabinet would be announced.
While Xi's deputy, Li Keqiang was tipped to take over as the new Premier, the present Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi is speculated to take over as the State Councillor succeeding Dai Bingguo, the top Chinese diplomat who acted as China's chief negotiator for India, US, Korea and Russia.
The new regime is eagerly awaited as the Chinese government has been virtually paralysed for the past four months due to impending political changes.
After taking over power, the new leadership would decide the fate of disgraced party leader Bo Xilai who is in custody facing a host of charges including sex, sleaze and corruption.
Before his detention, Bo posed a major challenge during the leadership change process as he headed a hardline group trying to resurrect the Maoist ideology.
The CPPCC and NPC sessions were expected to last for about nine days at the end of which the new leadership would take over the government completing the power transfer and the old leadership would formally retire.
At the opening meeting, CPPCC National Committee Chairman Jia Qinglin, the fourth ranking leader in the outgoing administration presented the work report outlining how China overcame "severe challenges" and made "extraordinary achievements" in reform, opening up and socialist modernisation over the past five years.
He said the new leadership should stick to the reform path outlined by late Deng Xiaoping who succeeded Mao Zedong after his death in 1976 and introduced new jargon called Social with Chinese Characteristics altering Mao's hard-line Communist philosophy.
"We should actively assist the Party and government in the work of getting the people to voice their demands, coordinating their interests, and safeguarding their rights and interests," Jia told the new members.
He also noted that the CPPCC should help deepen China's relations with other countries through new channels and high-level visits.
Besides Xi the newly-elected Communist Party leaders, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli attended the opening meeting along with Wen and other outgoing leaders.
Founded in 1949, the CPPCC consists of elite figures of the Chinese society who are willing to serve the think tank for the government and for the country's legislative and judicial organs.
As an open forum where the ruling CPC, non-Communist parties and people without party affiliation discuss state affairs freely and on an equal footing, the CPPCC has been the manifestation of China's socialist democracy, state-run Xinhua news agency said.