Xi Jinping has confirmed the presidency of China for an unprecedented third term

Xi Jinping began an unprecedented third term as China’s president on Friday, cementing the Chinese leader’s undisputed power amid rising tensions with the United States and deepening economic challenges at home.

At a solemn ceremony held in the Hall of the People in Beijing, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong was sworn in as head of state for another five years.

While the formal appointment was largely ceremonial — Xi took the more influential positions at the top of the Chinese Communist Party and military leadership at the party congress in October — his reinstatement as head of state comes at a sensitive time for China’s relationship with the world.

In the wake of Washington’s export controls on semiconductors, allegations of espionage and scrutiny of Beijing’s close ties to Moscow, Xi this week specifically named the United States as the leader of Western efforts to rein in China. While he often engages in nationalist rhetoric, the Chinese leader rarely directly criticizes the United States.

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“I think the biggest change is actually the collapse of relations between China and the United States over the last 10 years,” said Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California and the author of several books on China about Xi’s first decade in power. . Pei added that, along with the difficulties in the Chinese economy, reviving optimism will be one of the president’s biggest challenges going forward.

“How do you restore balance, how do you make people more optimistic, while saying there’s a big ugly adversary trying to suffocate us?” Pei said.

Xi’s appointment was approved with 2,952 votes in favor and zero against at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp parliament, whose members are appointed by the party.

Friday’s announcement of a third term completes a process Xi began in 2018 by removing the two-term limit on the presidency, allowing him to effectively rule for life if he so chooses.

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After the singing of China’s national anthem, the honor guard escorted a copy of China’s constitution into the Great Hall of the People, and Xi took the oath of office, promising to “work hard to build a prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and beautiful modern.” socialist country”.

China’s economy is expected to rebound this year after growth in 2022 fell to one of the lowest levels in decades due to Xi’s draconian zero-covid policies, but economists fear medium-term growth will be harder to come by. The real estate sector and municipalities continue to struggle with debt, and efforts to rebalance the economy from investment to consumption have yet to bear fruit.

The congress also appointed deputy prime minister and party veteran Han Zheng as vice president, a largely ceremonial role meant to check the president’s power.

While Han is a political survivor from the era of late President Jiang Zemin, he is expected to have little influence in the current government, said Wu Qiang, an independent political commentator in Beijing.

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At the Party Congress in October, Xi was able to do it stack the highest decision-making body of the Communist Partythe Standing Committee of the Politburo, with its close allies.

“If all of Xi’s people are in the standing committee and top positions, Han Zheng will live in Xi’s shadow and play a very limited role,” Wu said.

The parliament also confirmed Zhao Leji, a close ally of Xi, as the new president. He was previously the head of the party’s tough internal investigation agency, the Central Commission for Disciplinary Investigation.

“This shows that Xi is satisfied with Zhao’s work at CCDI,” Wu said.

Additional reporting by Xinning Liu and Nian Liu in Beijing

Source: https://www.ft.com/content/01663ba6-87a9-4fa6-a252-ee25308ba670