Xi Jinping was awarded a third term as China’s president on Friday, capping a rise that saw him become the country’s most powerful leader in generations.
The appointment by China’s parliament comes after Xi was jailed for another five years as head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in October.
Since then, 69-year-old Xi has endured widespread protests over his zero-Covid policy and the deaths of countless people after leaving it.
Those issues have been avoided at this week’s National People’s Congress (NPC), a carefully choreographed event that will also appoint Xi ally Li Qiang as the new prime minister.
On Friday, deputies handed Xi a third term as China’s president and unanimously re-elected him as head of the country’s Central Military Commission.
Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, a cavernous state building on the edge of Tiananmen Square, was decorated with crimson carpets and banners for the historic mood, with a military band providing background music.
A digital monitor at the edge of the podium announced the final result — all 2,952 votes had been cast for Xi to be re-elected.
The announcement was followed by fiery declarations of allegiance by delegates to China’s constitution in a demonstration of loyalty and unanimity.
Xi raised his right fist and placed his left hand on a red leather copy of the Chinese constitution.
“I swear to be loyal to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, to uphold the authority of the Constitution, to fulfill my legal obligations, to be loyal to the motherland, to be loyal to the people,” he said, vowing to fulfill his duties with honesty and hard work.
In the oath – broadcast live on state television across the country – he vowed to “build a prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and great modern socialist country”.
– Remarkable increase –
Xi’s re-election is the culmination of a remarkable rise that has seen him rise from a relatively little-known party apparatchik to the leader of an emerging global power.
His coronation sets him up to become communist China’s longest-serving president, and means Xi could rule well into his 70s — if no challenger emerges.
Adrian Geiges, co-author of “Xi Jinping: The Most Powerful Man in the World,” told AFP he didn’t think Xi was motivated by a desire for personal enrichment, despite international media investigations touting his family’s amassed wealth. revealed.
“That’s not his interest,” Geiges said.
“He really has a vision about China, he wants to see China as the most powerful country in the world.”
– Tearing up the rule book –
For decades, China—marked by the dictatorial rule and cult of personality of founding leader Mao Zedong—eschewed one-man rule in favor of a more consensual, but still autocratic, leadership.
That model imposed term limits on the largely ceremonial role of the presidency, with Xi’s predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao abdicating power after 10 years in office.
Xi tore up that rulebook, abolished term limits in 2018 and allowed a cult of personality to further his all-powerful leadership.
But the start of its unprecedented third term comes as the world’s second-largest economy faces major headwinds, from slowing growth and a troubled real estate sector to a declining birth rate.
Relations with the United States are also at an all-time low not seen in decades, with the powers-that-be sparring on everything from human rights to trade and technology.
“We will see a China that is more assertive on the global stage and pushes for its narrative to be accepted,” Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute, told AFP.
“But it is also one that will focus on making its homeland less dependent on the rest of the world, and making the Communist Party the center of governance, rather than the Chinese government,” he said.
“It’s not a return to the Maoist era, but one Maoists will be comfortable with,” Tsang added.
“No direction of travel that is good for the rest of the world.”