Xi Jinping secures historic third term as China's president with loyalists expected to get top posts
China's rubber-stamp parliament has confirmed that President Xi Jinping will serve a historic third term in office, consolidating his power as the country's most dominant leader in generations. While the president's role in Chinese governance is largely ceremonial, Xi's authority stems from his positions as General Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.
Xi was named to both posts at a party congress in October 2021, cementing his control over the country's military and political systems. His third term as president was widely expected, but the appointment of new ministers and a premier in the coming days is considered more important, with Xi expected to appoint loyalists to key positions.
One potential candidate for Xi's number two is Li Qiang, who is seen as a close ally of the president. Xi has also retained his position as chairman of the Central Military Commission, despite China's recent struggles with anti-government protests and a falling birth rate.
The two CMCs in China, one a party organization and the other a state institution, usually have the same makeup. Xi's solidification of power comes as the country faces significant economic and geopolitical challenges, including rising tensions with the US and a slowing economy.
China's direction in the coming years will be closely watched during the Two Sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) this week. These events provide a glimpse into the country's future direction, and Xi's centralization of power is seen by some as a potential solution to the country's disparate issues.
However, others are less optimistic about Xi's leadership style. Political scientist Ian Chong of the National University of Singapore suggests that "whether a strengthened Xi and increasing centralization is sufficient to overcome these problems—or perhaps make them worse—is unknown and perhaps not knowable at present."
Xi's third term as president is notable for breaking with China's tradition of limiting leaders to two terms. When Xi had this restriction changed in 2018, it transformed him into a figure with a reach not seen since Chairman Mao.
The appointment of Han Zheng as vice president is also significant, despite the role's undefined functions. The last vice president, Wang Qishan, fronted Xi's anti-corruption campaign, and it's likely that Han will closely follow the president's direction and enforce his policies as necessary.
In sum, Xi's consolidation of power and continued rule over China are seen as both a potential solution to the country's problems and a cause for concern among political analysts. Only time will tell how effective his leadership will be in navigating the complex challenges facing China today.