China’s leader Xi Jinping was awarded a third five-year presidential term Friday, putting him on track to stay in power for life at a time of severe economic challenges and rising tensions with the US 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 NPC, its members are appointed by the ruling party.
Xi had himself named to a third five-year term as party general secretary in October, breaking a tradition that Chinese leaders handed over power once a decade. A two-term limit on the figurehead presidency was deleted from the Chinese constitution earlier, prompting suggestions he might stay in control 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 place four ballots into boxes in 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, which explicitly takes orders from the party.
The Communist Party’s third-ranking official, Zhao Leji, was named head of the National People’s Congress. Most of the body’s legislative work is headed by its Standing Committee, which meets year-round.
A holdover from the previous party Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of political power in China, headed by Zhao, won Xi’s trust as head of the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – pursuing an anti-graft campaign that has frozen all potential opposition to the leader.
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.