BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping was awarded a third five-year term as the nation’s president on Friday, putting him on track to stay in power for life at a time of severe economic and growing tensions with the United States and others.
The approval of Xi’s nomination by the National People’s Congress ceremony was a fatality for a leader who has swept aside potential rivals and filled the upper ranks of the ruling Communist Party with his supporters since coming to power in 2012.
The vote for Xi was 2,952 to 0 by the NPC, whose members are appointed by the ruling party.
Xi, 69, nominated himself for a third five-year term as party general secretary in October, breaking with a tradition of China’s leaders handing over power once a decade. A two-term limit on the figurehead presidency has been removed of the Chinese Constitution earlier, suggesting that he could remain in power for life.
There was no indication that members of the National People’s Congress had any choice but to endorse Xi and other officials chosen by the Communist Party for other posts. When Xi was nominated for his first term as president in 2013, NPC members received a ballot bearing only his name and dropped it into a box as is. On Friday, journalists were kept at a distance and could not see the four ballots that each delegate deposited in ballot boxes placed around the vast auditorium of the Great Hall of the People.
Xi was also unanimously named head of the Central Military Commission which commands the party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, which has 2 million members.an automatic nomination for party leader for three decades.
In another vote, the party’s third official, Zhao Leji, was named head of the National People’s Congress. The vast majority of the body’s legislative work is directed by its Standing Committee, which meets year-round.
Zhao, 67, a remnant of the former Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top political power headed by Xi, has won Xi’s trust as head of the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, continuing an anti-corruption campaign that has frozen any potential opposition to Xi.
Former Shanghai party leader and member of the last Politburo standing committee, Han Zheng, was appointed to the largely ceremonial post of state vice president.
Xi, Zhao and Han were then sworn in with one hand on a copy of the Chinese Constitution. The session also swore in 14 vice presidents of congress.
Wang Huning, a remnant of the last Politburo Standing Committee, was then appointed head of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the NPC’s advisory body which, in coordination with the party’s United Front Department, works strengthen Xi’s influence and image abroad. Wang has served as a top adviser to three Chinese leaders and is the author of books critical of Western politics and society.
Xi’s new term and appointment of loyalists to the highest positions underscores his near-total monopoly on Chinese political power, eliminating any potential opposition to his hyper-nationalist agenda of making China the main political, military and economic rival of China. United States and leader’s authoritarian challenge to the democratic world order led by Washington.
While six others sit with him on the Politburo Standing Committee, all have long-standing ties to Xi and can be counted on to see to his will on issues ranging from party discipline to economic management.
The standing committee is all-male, and the 24-member Politburo, which has had only four female members since the 1990s, also has no women following the departure of Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chunlan.
Li Qiang, second he is widely expected to take over as Prime Minister, nominally in charge of the Cabinet and guardian of the economy. Li is best known for ruthlessly imposing a brutal ‘zero-COVID’ lockdown on Shanghai last spring as party leader of China’s financial hub, proving his loyalty to Xi in the face of complaints from residents about their lack of access to food, medical care and basic services.
Former chief of Guangdong Province’s manufacturing central, Li Xi, ranked seventh, has already been nominated to replace Zhao as head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
The congress is also expected to adopt measures strengthening the party’s control over government bodies at the national level as part of Xi’s drive to centralize power under the party.
At the opening of the annual congress session on Sunday, outgoing Premier Li Keqiang announced plans for a consumer-led revival of the struggling economy, setting the growth target for this year at “about 5 %”. Last year, growth in the world’s second-largest economy fell to 3%, the second-lowest level since at least the 1970s.
In addition, the Ministry of Finance announced a budget increase of 7.2% of the defense budget to 1.55 trillion yuan ($224 billion), marking a slight increase from 2022. China’s military spending is the second highest in the world after the United States.
In those days, Xi and his new foreign minister Qin Gang set a very combative tone for relations with the United States, amid tensions over trade, technology, Taiwan, human rights and the Beijing’s refusal to criticize the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Qin warned in unusually harsh terms that US-China friction could lead to something more serious.
“If the United States does not brake, but continues to accelerate on the wrong track, no guardrail can prevent the skid, and there will surely be conflicts and confrontations,” Qin said at his first press conference. since he last took office. year.
This echoed comments at a small group meeting of Xi’s delegates on Monday, where he said “Western countries led by the United States have implemented containment, encirclement and repression. China’s comprehensive development, which has posed unprecedented and severe challenges to our nation’s development.”
Xi went on Wednesday to call for “rapidly raising the armed forces to world-class standards.”
China should maximize its “national strategic capabilities” with the aim of “systematically enhancing the country’s overall strength to deal with strategic risks, safeguard strategic interests and achieve strategic goals”, Xi told a meeting of delegates. by the official newspaper Xinhua News. Agency.
Asked about China’s future foreign relations under Xi, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning struck a relatively soft tone.
Beijing maintains an “independent foreign policy of peace” and “will continue to view and develop China-US relations in accordance with the principles of peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and win-win cooperation”, Mao said during a briefing. daily press.
“We hope the US side can also meet with us halfway and put China-US relations back on the path of healthy and stable development,” she said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom Xi has forged close ties, sent his congratulations, saying Xi’s new term is “recognition of your achievements as head of state, as well as broad support for your policy focused on China’s socio-economic development and the protection of its national interests on the world stage.
Under Xi, China and Russia have heralded a “limitless” relationship and China has pointedly refused to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while echoing Moscow’s assertion that the United States and the NATO were responsible for provoking the Kremlin. Beijing has also slammed sanctions imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine, while Russia has staunchly backed China amid tensions with the United States over Taiwan.
“We will continue to coordinate our joint work on the most important issues on the regional and international agenda,” Putin said, according to the Kremlin.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, head of the ruling Workers’ Party, also sent his congratulations, saying that “both parties and two countries uphold and advance socialism, the common cause, while supporting and supporting each other.” cooperating closely”. China is the impoverished and isolated North’s most important political ally and source of food and energy aid.
Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.
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