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China's Leadership Change: What Will The Next Decade Under Xi Jinping Hold For Democracy And The Economy?

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Hu Jintao is handing the leadership baton to Xi Jinping | PA/Getty

China is undergoing a once-in-a-decade leadership transition as the Communist Party selects its new president to lead what could soon be the most powerful country on earth.

Hu Jintao, the bureaucratic, soft-spoken incumbent, is to hand over to Xi Jinping, affable, communicative, but still very much a conservative choice.

How is the leadership change seen by Chinese citizens living 5,000 miles away in the UK?

The Huffington Post UK interviewed four Chinese citizens about their views on China and their hopes for its future. They tell us how they think it will change over the next decade, from the economy to opportunities for young people and from human rights to religious practice.

shao jiang

Shao Jiang, a pro-demcracy campaigner who was imprisoned for his part in the student demonstrations in Tianammen Square

Shao Jiang, 45, was a student protester at Tianammen Square in 1989, surviving the massacre there and escaping from house arrest to flee to Hong Kong in 1997, to Sweden, and finally to the UK in 2003. He is a blogger for Amnesty International and a pro-democracy activist.

I was granted political asylum 20 days before the handover of Hong Kong from the British to China. I look at China now and nothing has improved for pro-democracy campaigners.

Thousands have been put under house arrest or prison before the party congress in Beijing, to make sure there is no trouble. Two people have been killed in protests. Seven people have set themselves on fire in the last 30 days in Tibet.

It is a very, very bad situation. No-one can say otherwise. It is getting worse and worse for any kind of civil resistance and I can't really see a chance to improve with the change in party leadership. The idea is to play on extreme nationalism, and turn that into a love for Mao's ideology and the party.

But I do have hope for the next 10 years. There are great civil society groups in Tibet and China, citizens fighting for their rights. They want to work together, different genders, different ethnicities, different social groups for a common cause.

I don't think China's economic development is sustainable. I think people will realise how industrial development affects their lives and health, like the poisoned milk scandal a few years ago, the dangers of polluting the air an the water. That is happening more and more. It could be the trigger.

Dr Enze Han, is a lecturer at SOAS on China's Foreign Relations. He has been in the UK just two months, having lived in the US and Canada since leaving his home city of Hangzhou, near Shanghai 10 years ago. He returns to his home country regularly.

I don't predict any major change with the change in leadership. I don't think China needs radical change. People often talk about the rise of China, how it must change to adapt.

But I think that, in fact, the world has to adapt to the rise of China, not the reverse. I don't think the US is really ready for that.

Of course, leaders want to improve China's international standing, to give off a 'soft power' image. But other nations must respect the Chinese national interests, the country's position on Tibet, on Taiwan. The government is not going to back down on this, and they want the world to respect that.

My personal view is that China should change only gradually. We want stable economic development, a more equal distribution of wealth, no political upheaval. That's what is in the interests of most people.

What is good for the Middle East and the Arab Spring is not good for China.

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Chinese children play near a floral arrangement displaying a Spirit of Beijing slogan, reading 'Patriotism, Innovation, Tolerance, and Social Morals' during the 18th Communist Party Congress

Bono, 21, is a student at Cambridge University, who has studied in the UK for six years, and is originally from Nanjing, where his family still live.

I really don't know anything about Xi Jinping, about his character. I think I am fairly typical of young people in China. We'll find out much more about him when he takes charge, meets world leaders etc. Most of my friends at home are fairly indifferent about it.

I think the economy will still be a focus for the next 10 years but I do hope there is an effort to improve social welfare.

Everything is so expensive now in China for young people. The gap between rich and poor is widening.

If I moved back to Nanjing, I couldn't afford a house, even in Nanjing, let along in Shanghai. Food, computer equipment, travel is very expensive. China's growing economy is good in some ways, bad in others.

I can't see myself returning to live in China soon. All my education has been in English. And my social life is so different here, I can't see myself going back to socialising in China. I like how the UK is so multicultural, I like the different things there are to do.

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A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard in front of the portrait of former Chinese Leader Mao Zedong near Tiananmen Square in Beijing

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Betty, 36, is from Inner Mongolia, in northern China, and moved to study in France for her masters degree, and PhD in London. She now works in retail and is a follower of Falun Gong, a religion banned in China. Her parents were imprisoned for a year and a half for practising the religion, but have now joined her in the UK.

Chinese people desperately need more rights of freedom of speech and religion. But personally I don't expect too much from Xi Jinping. Even if he does want change, he is part of a party machine, he cannot change the country alone. He has to have the support of the whole system.

There is a rumour that Xi Jinping may soon be willing to acknowledge what the government did wrong in Tiananmen Square, killing innocent students.

That would be a good step, but I think it would be only out of self-interest, not because they really do want to apologise. It isn't selfless. It's all about power and control.

I think China needs to get back to traditional values, of alignment with nature, peace and compassion and the Divine Being. There is a moral crisis in China. People only care about money, they cheat their neighbours.