Xi Jinping Secures Third Presidential Term Amidst Major Challenges
Chinese leader Xi Jinping secured an unprecedented third five-year term on Friday, consolidating his control as the country faces mounting challenges at home and globally.
Nearly 3,000 members of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, voted unanimously in the Great Hall of the People for the 69-year-old Xi in an election in which there was no other candidate.
Xi, who has taken China in a more authoritarian direction since taking control a decade ago, is extending his term in office amid increasingly hostile relations with Washington and the West over Taiwan, and Beijing’s support for Russia, trade and human rights.
Domestically, the world’s second-largest economy is facing a difficult recovery from three years of X-no-COVID policy, fragile consumer and business confidence, and weak global demand for Chinese exports.
China’s economy grew just 3% last year, among its worst performance in decades. During parliament, Beijing set a modest growth target for this year of just around 5%.
“In his third term, Xi will need to focus on economic recovery,” said Willie Lamm, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a US think tank. “But if he continues with what he has been doing – tightening party and state control over the private sector and confrontation with the West, his prospects for success will not be encouraging.”
Xi paved the way for another term when he abolished presidential term limits in 2018, becoming China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, who founded the People’s Republic of China.
China’s presidency is largely ceremonial, and the chief’s position of power was extended last October when he was reappointed for another five-year term as general secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee.
New command menu
During Friday’s vote, Xi held casual talks with Premier-in-Late Li Qiang, who is seated to his left and is due to be confirmed Saturday in China’s second-place, a role that puts the former Shanghai party chief and close ally. Responsible for managing the economy.
Other officials approved by Xi will also be elected or appointed to key government posts over the coming weekend, including deputy prime ministers, a central bank governor and several other ministers and department heads.
The annual parliamentary session – the first since China dropped three years of COVID-19 restrictions – will end on Monday, when Xi will deliver a speech followed by an informational question-and-answer session by Li.
During Friday’s session, Xi and dozens of other top leaders on stage did not wear masks but all others in the vast hall did.
China abruptly ended its eradication of the novel coronavirus in December after highly unusual nationwide protests against the policy. A subsequent wave infected most of China’s 1.4 billion people, but China has not released the full number of related deaths.
On Friday, the parliament also elected Zhao Liji, 66, as the new speaker of parliament and Han Zheng, 68, as the new vice-chairman. The two men were from Xi’s former team of party leaders on the Politburo Standing Committee.
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