China Hands Xi Jinping Historic Third Term as President

China Hands Xi Jinping Historic Third Term as President
Photo Credit: Getty Images

What you need to know

Xi was unanimously voted to serve a third term as the president and commander of the 2 million-member People’s Liberation Army.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping unanimously secured an unprecedented third five-year presidential term on Friday, making him China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong and is on track to remain in power for life.

Nearly 3,000 members of the National People’s Congress (NPC), voted for Xi to be president, in an uncontested election.

Xi was also unanimously voted to serve a third term as the head of the nation’s Central Military Commission.

During the parliamentary session, Zhao Leji, 66, was appointed as the new parliament chair, and Han Zheng, 68, as the new vice president, both of whom were members of Xi’s previous team of party leaders at the Politburo Standing Committee.

Over the next two days, officials appointed or elected by Xi will fill top positions in the cabinet, including Li Qiang, who is expected to be named as China’s No. 2.

From obscurity to leadership

Xi’s re-election marks a remarkable ascent from a relatively unknown party member to the leader of a burgeoning global superpower.

Despite facing widespread protests over his zero-Covid policy and the subsequent deaths of numerous individuals after its abandonment, the 69-year-old leader has persevered.

It was widely expected that Xi’s appointment would be endorsed by the National People’s Congress, a ceremonial body whose members are appointed by the ruling party.

Since taking power in 2012, Xi has marginalized potential challengers and filled key positions in the Communist Party with his own allies.

The vote for Xi was unanimous, with 2,952 members of the NPC supporting his appointment.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) talks with Premier Li Keqiang (R) during the opening of the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress at The Great Hall of People on March 5, 2023 in Beijing, China. China’s annual political gathering known as the Two Sessions will convene leaders and lawmakers to set the government’s agenda for domestic economic and social development for the year.
Xi strengthens grip on power

Xi’s path to another term was paved when he eliminated presidential term limits in 2018, and his power was further consolidated last October when he was reconfirmed as the general secretary of the central committee of the ruling Communist Party for another five years.

This was a stark departure from the tradition of transferring power every decade.

Earlier, the two-term limit for the presidency was removed from the Chinese constitution, leading to speculation that Xi might rule indefinitely.

The election process was shrouded in secrecy, with no candidate lists distributed and Xi and others believed to have run unopposed.

Additionally, Xi was unanimously appointed as commander of the 2 million-member People’s Liberation Army, a force that takes its orders from the party rather than the country.

Challenges ahead

The election of Xi for the third term comes as the country is trying to recover from the economic impact of his zero-Covid policy. 

Marking it as its worst performance in decades, the world’s second-largest economy grew by only 3% last year. A growth target of 5% was set for this year by the country’s parliament to get ahead of the international competition. 

Xi’s government has reorganized the Ministry of Science and Technology. It further aims to create a separate authority to oversee the increasing data available to the government. 

A restructuring of the government is also expected, with the elimination of around 5% of the jobs, the largest reduction the government will oversee seen since 1998.

Strained relations with the West also remain a point of concern for China. In a meeting held earlier this week on the sidelines of the People’s Congress, Xi said that the United States and West are aiming to hinder Beijing’s rise through a “containment policy.” 

However, according to Willy Lam, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. think tank, Xi’s vision of economic success will not be promising “if he continues with what he has been doing — tightening party and state control over the private sector and confrontation with the West.”

‘Strengthening’ ties with Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also welcomed Xi’s new term election, congratulating him on his success.

In a congratulatory statement released by the Kremlin, Putin said to Xi that, “Russia highly values your personal contribution toward the strengthening of ties... and strategic cooperation between our nations.”

ss, aa /rc (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

This article was originally published on Deutsche Welle. Read the original article here.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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