Los Angeles Times

Xi is awarded a third presidenti­al term

The Chinese leader secures 5 more years in office, on track to stay in power for life.


BEIJING — Chinese leader Xi Jinping was awarded a third five-year term as president Friday, putting him on track to stay in power for life at a time of severe economic challenges and rising tensions with the U.S. and others.

The endorsemen­t of Xi’s appointmen­t by the ceremonial National People’s Congress was a foregone conclusion for a leader who has sidelined potential rivals and filled the top ranks of the ruling Communist Party with his supporters since taking power in 2012.

The vote for Xi was 2,952 to 0 by the congress, members of which are appointed by the ruling party.

Xi, 69, had himself named to 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 earlier, prompting suggestion­s he might stay in power for life.

No candidate lists were distribute­d, and Xi and those awarded other posts were believed to have run unopposed. The election process remains almost entirely shrouded in secrecy, apart from the process by which delegates to the congress placed four ballots into boxes situated around the vast auditorium of the Great Hall of the People.

Xi was also unanimousl­y named commander of the 2-million-member People’s Liberation Army, a force that explicitly takes its orders from the party rather than the country.

In other voting, the party’s third-ranking official, Zhao Leji, was named head of the National People’s Congress. The vast majority of the body’s legislativ­e work is headed by its Standing Committee, which meets year-round.

Zhao, 67 — a holdover from the previous party Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of political power in China headed by Xi — won Xi’s trust as head of the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, pursuing a putative anti-graft campaign that has frozen all potential opposition to the leader.

A former Shanghai party boss and member of the last Politburo Standing Committee, Han Zheng, was named to the largely ceremonial post of state vice president.

Xi, Zhao and Han then took the oath of office, each with one hand on a copy of the Chinese Constituti­on. The session also swore in 14 congress vice chairperso­ns.

Wang Huning, a holdover from the last Politburo Standing Committee, was later named head of the Chinese People’s Political Consultati­ve Conference, the congress’ advisory body that, in coordinati­on with the party’s United Front Department, works to build Xi’s influence and image abroad. Wang has been a top advisor to three Chinese leaders and has written books critiquing Western politics and society.

Xi’s new term and the appointmen­t of loyalists to top posts underscore his neartotal monopoly on Chinese political power, eliminatin­g any potential opposition to his hyper-nationalis­tic agenda of building China into the top political, military and economic rival to the U.S. and the chief authoritar­ian challenge to the Washington-led democratic world order.

While six others serve 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 from party discipline to economic management.

The standing committee comprises only men; the 24member Politburo, which has had only four female members since the 1990s, also has no women after the departure of Vice Premier Sun Chunlan.

China on Saturday named Li Qiang, a close confidant of Xi, as the country’s next premier, nominally in charge of the economy.

Li is best known for ruthlessly enforcing a harsh “zero-COVID” lockdown on Shanghai last spring as party boss of the Chinese financial hub, proving his loyalty to Xi in the face of complaints from residents over a lack of access to food, medical care and basic services.

Former head of the manufactur­ing powerhouse of Guangdong province, seventh-ranked Li Xi has already been appointed to replace Zhao as head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

The congress is also expected to pass a measure intensifyi­ng party control over national-level government organs as part of Xi’s campaign of centralizi­ng 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 this year’s growth target at “around 5%.”

Last year’s growth in the world’s second-largest economy fell to 3%, the second weakest level since at least the 1970s.

Separately, the Ministry of Finance announced a 7.2% budget increase in the defense budget to $224 billion, marking a slight increase over 2022. China’s military spending is the world’s second highest, after the United States.

Xi and his new foreign minister, Qin Gang, have set a highly combative tone for relations with the U.S., amid tensions over trade, technology, Taiwan, human rights and Beijing’s refusal to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Qin warned in unusually stark terms about the possibilit­y of U.S.China frictions leading to something more dire.

“If the United States does not hit the brake but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing, and there surely will be conflict and confrontat­ion,” Qin said in his first news conference since taking up his post last year.

That echoed comments from Xi at a small group meeting of delegates on Monday, in which he said that “Western countries led by the United States have implemente­d all-round containmen­t, encircleme­nt and suppressio­n of China, which has brought unpreceden­ted grave challenges to our nation’s developmen­t.”

Xi followed up Wednesday by calling for “more quickly elevating the armed forces to world-class standards.”

China must maximize its “national strategic capabiliti­es” in a bid to “systematic­ally upgrade the country’s overall strength to cope with strategic risks, safeguard strategic interests and realize strategic objectives,” Xi was quoted as saying to a meeting of delegates by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Asked about China’s future foreign relations under Xi, Foreign Ministry spokespers­on Mao Ning struck a relatively mild tone.

Beijing maintains an “independen­t foreign policy of peace” and will “continue to view and develop China-U.S. relations in accordance with the principles of peaceful coexistenc­e, mutual respect and win-win cooperatio­n,” Mao said at a daily briefing.

“We hope the U.S. side can also meet us halfway and push China-U.S. relations back on the track of sound and stable developmen­t,” she said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom Xi has formed close ties, issued his congratula­tions, saying Xi’s new term is an “acknowledg­ment of your achievemen­ts as the head of state, as well as wide support of your policy focused on China’s socioecono­mic developmen­t and protection of its national interests on the global stage.”

Under Xi, China and Russia announced a “no limits” relationsh­ip, and China has refused to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while echoing Moscow’s claim that the U.S. and NATO were to blame for provoking the Kremlin. Beijing has also denounced internatio­nal sanctions imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine, while Russia has staunchly supported China amid tensions with the U.S. over Taiwan.

“We will continue to coordinate our joint work related to the most important issues on the regional and internatio­nal agenda,” Putin said, according to the Kremlin.

 ?? Noel Celis AFP/Getty Images ?? PRESIDENT Xi Jinping arrives at Friday’s session of the National People’s Congress, whose members endorsed him for a third term by a vote of 2,952 to 0. Chinese leaders had traditiona­lly left office after two terms. Xi and other winners are believed to have run unopposed.
Noel Celis AFP/Getty Images PRESIDENT Xi Jinping arrives at Friday’s session of the National People’s Congress, whose members endorsed him for a third term by a vote of 2,952 to 0. Chinese leaders had traditiona­lly left office after two terms. Xi and other winners are believed to have run unopposed.

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