The Chinese People’s Congress at its session, as expected, awarded Xi Jinping a third term as the country’s president. Just under 3,000 delegates unanimously approved the 69-year-old, the most influential Chinese politician in recent generations.
The appointment follows a period of consolidating the power of Shi, who was already entrusted by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party with the new mandate of General Secretary and Commander of the Chinese Armed Forces last October.
Since then, Shi has weathered widespread protests against China’s zero-tolerance policy on Covid-19 and numerous deaths that followed the subsequent lifting of extremely strict restrictions. None of these issues were the subject of the session of the People’s Congress, which is taking place according to a carefully prepared script.
Confirmation for the third term of the president was expected. The Congress appointed 68-year-old Han Zheng, a former member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, as the country’s vice president.
In the following days, the appointment of a new prime minister and several ministers will follow. These are said to be cadres loyal to Shi, including former Shanghai party boss Li Chiang, who is expected to occupy the premiership.
The People’s Congress also approved Shi’s plans to reorganize the government, which is expected to focus on the country’s leading role in the field of technology. The Chinese president, who sees increasing pressure from the US, wants to give Beijing an advantage in the field of global competitiveness.
Among other things, about five percent of government jobs are expected to be eliminated, the most since a major restructuring in 1998. A new Financial Supervisory Commission will be established to take over the central bank’s current role in coordinating supervision of banks, insurance and consumer protection.
Building a modern socialist state
Ever since Mao Zedong, Chinese leaders have only been able to lead the country for two terms. Both of Shi’s predecessors, Zhang Zemin and Hu Jintao, said goodbye to their positions after ten years. Xi Jinping, however, removed this restriction in 2018, opening the way to further leadership of the country.
After today’s vote, in which he was supported by all 2,952 delegates, Ši has already sworn into office, promising at the event, which was broadcast live on state television, that “built a successful, strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and large modern socialist country“.
This new term begins at a time when the world’s second-largest economy is grappling with a number of problems, from slowing growth to declining birthrates. Relations with the US are at an all-time low, with the two superpowers at loggerheads over a range of issues from human rights to trade and technology.