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Will U.S.-China Relations Change After China’s Historic Leadership Transition?

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The U.S. is not the only superpower facing political change this week. China begins its 18th Communist Party Congress on Wednesday and party leaders will decide who will lead the world's second biggest economy.

"This is an historic time to be watching China politically now," says Nicholas Consonery, Asia analyst for Eurasia Group, a global political risk research and consulting firm. "The Communist Party, which has been in charge since 1949, is going to see a big transition in the entire leadership of the party."

Consonery tells The Daily Ticker that the Party's standing committee, which leads the country, will almost completely turn over and may even be reduced in size from nine to seven members. These individuals will likely run China for the next 10 years.

It's expected that Xi Jinping, China's vice president, will be named the new head of state and Li Kequiang, the current executive vice premier, will become the new premier. Although the changes will announced by Nov. 11, they won't take effect until March 2013.

Consonery says the changes are wide and deep -- the equivalent in the U.S. to a change in the presidency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Supreme Court and the governorships of most or all the states, all at once.

"It's not just change at the top of the party, but the whole party structure," adds Consonery.

Related: China's Slow Growth 'Marks an End of an Era' But No Hard Landing

China's new government will face many domestic challenges including a slowing economy, a growing middle class and increasing demands for political reform. China's economy grew at a 7.4% annual rate in the third quarter—its slowest since the first quarter of 2009.

China's new leadership with also have to contend with an increasingly fraught relationship with the U.S. and its Asian neighbors.

The Obama Administration has been bringing more cases against China through the WTO, charging China with unfair trade practices.

Related: America vs. China: "Free Trade is Only for Friends," Says Prof. D'Aveni

"The U.S. is clearly headed in the direction of taking more forceful stances with China over trade and economic issues," says Consonery.

In Asia, there's a "growing level of concern about China's rise…on the part of many of its neighbors and a clear determination on the part of the U.S. to increase its engagement there," says Consonery. China and Japan both claim ownership of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which are currently controlled by Japan.

Chinese surveillance ships have been seen sailing in the waters around the islands. On Tuesday the U.S. and Japan began an 11-day join military exercise in the area.

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