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Xi's third term as president cements effort to consolidate power

Bloomberg
Bloomberg • 3 min read
Xi's third term as president cements effort to consolidate power
Xi won the vote in the National People’s Congress 2,952-0, officially giving him five more years in power. Photo: Bloomberg
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Chinese lawmakers unanimously voted to give Xi Jinping a third term as president Friday, completing his ascension to supreme leader of the world’s No. 2 economy.

Xi won the vote in the National People’s Congress 2,952-0, officially giving him five more years in power and demonstrating his unrivalled grip over the ruling Communist Party. He also won
unanimously in 2018, the same year China abolished constitutional provisions that would’ve barred him from a third term.

The lawmakers rose and clapped for Xi as the results were announced in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Earlier, he chatted casually with top lieutenants Li Qiang, Wang Huning and Zhao Leji as NPC members cast their red paper ballots. Li is expected to be named premier on Saturday.

The annual legislative gathering reappointed Xi as chairman of the Central Military Commission, a post that makes him chief of the world’s biggest armed forces in terms of active personnel.

The NPC also installed former anti-graft chief Zhao Leji as its new leader. It gave the vice presidency to Han Zheng, who replaces Wang Qishan.

Han has experience leading a party group overseeing Hong Kong. In recent years, Beijing has imposed a national security law, jailed members of the political opposition and revamped the electoral system to ensure loyalists lead the financial hub.

See also: Feel the pulse of real China at the street level

The balloting was largely procedural since Xi secured his status atop the party that dominates politics in China at a major congress in the fall. He used that event to pack top party positions with his allies, while pushing out potential rivals for power.

The manoeuvring effectively discarded the collective leadership approach that China used since its reform and opening experiment started in the late 1970s, raising concern among investors and others that Xi would not face any checks on his power or questions about policy. A former top contender to someday lead China, Hu Chunhua, was even left off the party’s 24-member Politburo altogether.

On Friday, a key gauge of Chinese stocks erased its gains for the year, weighed down by uncertainty over the economic outlook and a lack of fresh catalysts from the NPC.

See also: Navigating China’s investment landscape

The MSCI China Index slumped as much as 2.2% to its lowest since Dec 22. It pared some losses after the vote results were announced.

Xi has used the annual NPC gathering this year to revamp the government to — he hopes — better compete in the increasingly testy rivalry with the US. On Tuesday, China
unveiled plans to strengthen oversight of its US$60 trillion ($81.32 trillion) financial system, create a new agency to manage data, and restructure the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The objective was to “better allocate resources to overcome challenges in key and core technologies, and move faster toward greater self-reliance in science and technology,” the official
Xinhua News Agency said.

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