Xi Jinping is set to be handed a norm-busting third term as president on Friday, capping a rise that has seen him become China’s most powerful leader in generations.
The expected appointment by China’s rubber-stamp parliament comes after he locked in another five years as head of the Communist Party (CCP) and the military — the two more significant leadership positions in Chinese politics — in October.
Since then, 69-year-old Xi has faced some challenges, with mass protests over his zero-Covid policy and its subsequent abandonment that saw countless people die.
Those issues have been avoided at this week’s National People’s Congress (NPC), a carefully choreographed event that is also set to appoint Xi ally Li Qiang as the new premier.
The lawmakers have focused instead on a sweeping revamp of Beijing’s science ministry and tech capabilities in the face of what one NPC deputy described as foreign attempts at “containment and suppression” of the country’s rise.
Beijing also unveiled during the parliamentary meeting a growth goal of “around five percent” — one of its lowest in decades — as well as a modest increase in defence spending.
And on Friday they are set to elect the country’s next president, according to an official schedule provided by the NPC — a position certain to go to Xi.
His reelection is the culmination of a remarkable rise in which he has gone from a relatively little-known party apparatchik to the leader of a global superpower.
Adrian Geiges, coauthor of the biography titled “Xi Jinping: The Most Powerful Man in the World”, told AFP he did not think Xi was motivated by a desire for personal enrichment, despite international media investigations having revealed his family’s amassed wealth.
“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 rulebook –
For decades China — scarred by the dictatorial reign and cult of personality of founding leader Mao Zedong — eschewed one-man rule in favour of a more consensus-based, 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 relinquishing power after 10 years in office.
Xi has torn up that rulebook, abolishing term limits in 2018 and allowing a cult of personality to foster his all-powerful leadership.
His coronation this week sets him up to become modern China’s longest-serving head of state, and will mean Xi will rule well into his seventies and — if no challenger emerges — even longer.
But the beginning of his unprecedented third term leading China 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 a low not seen in decades, with the powers sparring over everything from human rights to trade and technology.
In a speech to delegates at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which runs alongside the NPC this week, Xi slammed Washington’s “containment, encirclement and suppression of China”.
China, he said, must “have the courage to fight as the country faces profound and complex changes in both the domestic and international landscape”.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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