Chinese leader Xi Jinping formally awarded himself a record-breaking third term as the head of the state, completing his transition into the country’s most powerful ruler in decades at a time of severe economic challenges and rising tensions with the United States and others.
Xi, 69, had already secured a third five-year term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the most powerful post in the nation’s ruling system, last October.
On Friday, roughly 3,000 carefully-picked delegates in China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, approved Xi’s new term as the head of the state.
The reappointment of Xi in the largely ceremonial role is not a surprise. Xi scrapped a two-term limit on the head of the state role by revising the constitution in 2018, prompting suggestions he might stay in power for life.
Xi was also reappointed as chairman of the Central Military Commission, making him the commander of the two million-member People’s Liberation Army, a force that is the army of the party rather than the country.
Having secured the new term in office and having appointed his allies to the upper echelons of power, Xi is no doubt China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong now.
But in reality, “Xi is likely to encounter unprecedented challenges during this term of office,” said Li Linyi, a U.S.-based China commentator. Li pointed to the country’s battered economy and the rising international pressures on the party.
Xi’s third term in office comes at a time of rising tensions with the United States and other western countries over the communist regime’s economic espionage, technology theft, assertive military actions around Asia, human rights abuses, and other issues.
Meanwhile, China’s economic growth fell to 3 percent, the second-weakest level since at least the 1970s, after three years of harsh COVID-19 curbs, a sweeping crackdown on an array of homegrown tech giants along with real estate developers. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang set this year’s growth target of just “around 5 percent.”
Despite the sluggish economic growth, the Ministry of Finance on March 5 announced a 7.2 percent budget increase in the defense budget to 1.55 trillion yuan ($224 billion), marking a slight increase over 2022. China’s military spending is the world’s second highest after the United States.
On Wednesday, Xi called for “more quickly elevating the armed forces to world-class standards.”
This week’s two sessions, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress, also ushered in the biggest political reshuffle as Xi strengthened the party’s grip over the country.
On Friday, Zhao Leji was appointed as the head of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature.
A holdover from the previous CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of political power in China headed by Xi, Zhao, 67, won Xi’s trust as head of the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, pursuing an anti-graft campaign that has frozen all potential opposition to the leader.
Meanwhile, Han Zheng was named to the largely ceremonial post of state vice leader.
Han is viewed as a member of a political faction—known as the “Jiang faction” for its loyalty to former CCP leader Jiang Zemin—that opposes Xi Jinping’s leadership. The 68-year-old stepped down from the new Politburo Standing Committee last October as he reached retirement age.
Second-ranked Li Qiang is widely expected to take over as premier, nominally caretaker of the economy. Li is best known for ruthlessly enforcing a brutal “zero-COVID” lockdown in Shanghai last spring as party boss of the Chinese financial hub, proving his loyalty to Xi in the face of complaints from residents over their lack of access to food, medical care, and basic services.
Other top positions of the state will also be announced in the upcoming weekends, including the vice premier and different ministers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times