The Independent

Ruthless premier completes unpreceden­ted power grab


That China’s rubber-stamp parliament handed Xi Jinping an unpreceden­ted third term should come as little surprise, but it does illustrate the extent of his power grab.

The post of president is constituti­onally ceremonial, but Xi’s true power stems from the fact that he is leader of the Chinese

Communist Party (having already been granted a historic third term as party chief) and commander-in-chief of the military. Indeed, the members of the National People’s Congress who voted for Mr Xi are appointed by the ruling party.

Xi had already been awarded a third five-year term as party general secretary in October, breaking with a tradition under which Chinese leaders handed over power once a decade. A twoterm limit on the figurehead presidency was deleted from the Chinese constituti­on even earlier, prompting suggestion­s he might stay in power for life.

Xi's push for power began when he was handed the reins to the Communist Party by his predecesso­r Hu Jintao. This latest move is the culminatio­n of a steady, and sometimes ruthless, journey to place himself at the centre of his party. His rolling anticorrup­tion campaigns have allowed Xi to force out enemies, while also garnering the support of his people.

Xi has also essentiall­y dispensed with the factional system that had marked China's politics for decades; he is now surrounded by loyalists. The parliament also elected Zhao Leji, 66, as parliament chair and Han Zheng, 68, as vice president. Both men are key Xi allies. There are no challenger­s to his rule and he has also crushed any expectatio­n of nurturing a successor.

Another Xi ally, Li Qiang, is poised to be confirmed as premier today, China’s second-highest post. It is a role that puts the former Shanghai party chief and Xi ally in charge of the economy. Other Xi-approved officials are due to be elected or appointed to government posts over this weekend, including vice premiers, a central bank governor and numerous other ministries. The annual parliament­ary session will end on Monday, with a speech from Xi.

Xi has made no secret of his admiration for Mao and has crafted his own cult of personalit­y

The previous premier, Li Keqiang, was seen to be aligned to former leader Hu, who was taken off stage at last year’s Party Congress on Xi’s orders. Whether that was down to ill health or because Hu was causing a disturbanc­e is still unclear, but it certainly offered a clear indication of Xi’s standing.

During his years in power, Xi has tightened his party’s grip over civil society in China, cracked down on free expression and sought to suppress the democracy movement in Hong Kong. China has also waged a campaign of forced assimilati­on in the Xinjiang region. In 2021, UK MPs approved a non-binding Commons motion that declared Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang were “suffering crimes against humanity and genocide”. China has denied such allegation­s.

China’s president is now widely considered to be the country’s most powerful figure since founding leader, Mao Zedong. Xi has made no secret of his admiration for Mao and has crafted his own cult of personalit­y – a process that has accelerate­d in recent years. Near the end of last year, Xi visited Yan’an in the northweste­rn province of Shaanxi, revered in the Communist Party as the cradle of the revolution. In 2018, China’s top body enshrined Xi’s political ideology – “Xi Jinping Thought” – into the country’s constituti­on. No other leader besides Mao have had their ideology described as “thought”, and only Mao and Deng Xiaoping have had their names attached to their

ideologies. In 2021 it was announced that “Xi Jinping Thought” would be introduced into the national curriculum.

There are plenty of challenges ahead for Xi, including a sluggish economy and difficult diplomatic relations with the US. Then there are Beijing’s increasing­ly close relations with Russia, against the backdrop of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, with Kyiv having been given staunch support by western allies. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin congratula­ted his “dear friend” on his new presidenti­al term.

While Xi’s push to mould the Communist Party in his image means he is in total control, he risks being in an echo chamber of “yes men” and he will be wholly responsibl­e for any future failures.

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 ?? (AP) ?? Xi Jinping is in tota l contro l of his party after years of po l itica l maneuverin­g
(AP) Xi Jinping is in tota l contro l of his party after years of po l itica l maneuverin­g

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