China’s most powerful leader in decades, Xi Jinping, was re-elected for a third term as president on Friday in Beijing.
After securing another five years at the helm of the
Communist Party (CCP) and the military in October, the two most important leadership positions in Chinese politics, Xi was appointed by China’s rubber-stamp parliament.
Xi, now 69 years old, has endured protests ever since the policy he instituted to prevent Covid deaths was abandoned.
At this week’s National People’s Congress (NPC), a Xi ally named Li Qiang is expected to be appointed as the new premier, so those topics have been carefully avoided.
And on Friday, they gave Xi a third term as China’s president, capping off his incredible rise from obscure party official to head of a global superpower.
If no one else steps up to challenge his rule, Xi Jinping’s coronation will make him the longest-serving president in modern Chinese history.
Despite international media investigations revealing his family’s amassed wealth, Adrian Geiges, co-author of “Xi Jinping: The Most Powerful Man in the World,” told AFP he did not think Xi was motivated by a desire for personal enrichment.
It’s not something he’s interested in, Geiges said.
According to those close to him, “he really has a vision about China, he wants to see China as the most powerful country in the world.”
For decades after the tyrannical rule and cult of personality of Mao Zedong, China opted for a more consensus-based, albeit still autocratic, form of government.
Xi’s two immediate predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, both stepped down from power after serving for 10 years under this model, which imposed term limits on the largely ceremonial role of the presidency.
Xi has discarded this guidebook, doing away with term limits in 2018 and fostering a cult of personality to ensure his continued rule.
However, the start of his unprecedented third term as China’s leader coincides with a number of challenges facing the world’s second-largest economy, including sluggish growth, a troubled real estate sector, and a falling birthrate.
The United States’ relationship with China is also at a low point not seen in decades, with the two powers sparring over everything from human rights to trade and technology.
In an interview with AFP, Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute, predicted that the country would become more assertive internationally.
However, “it is also one that will focus on domestically making it less dependent on the rest of the world, and making the Communist Party the centerpiece of governance, rather than the Chinese Government,” he added.
“It is not a return to the Maoist era, but one that Maoist will feel comfortable in,” Tsang clarified.
Not a course that benefits the rest of the world.