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Xi was granted a third term as President of China, and extended the rule

Xi was granted a third term as President of China, and extended the rule

BEIJING (AP) – Chinese leader Xi Jinping secured a third five-year term as president on Friday, putting him on track to stay in power for life at a time of severe economic challenges and heightened tensions with the United States and others.

The approval 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 upper echelons of the ruling Communist Party with his supporters since taking power in 2012.

The number of votes in favor of Xi was 2,952-0 by the National People’s Congress, whose members are appointed by the ruling party.

Xi, 69, appointed himself to a third five-year term as party general secretary in October, breaking with the tradition of Chinese leaders handing over power once a decade. The two-term limit for a figurehead presidency has been abolished from the Chinese constitution earlier, leading to suggestions that he might remain in power for life.

There was no indication that members of the National People’s Congress had any choice but to endorse Xi and other officials hand-picked by the Communist Party for other positions. When Xi was appointed to his first term as president in 2013, NPC members received a ballot paper with only his name on it and threw it unchanged into a box. On Friday, reporters were kept at a distance and could not see the four ballot papers each delegate had deposited in the boxes placed around the vast hall of the Great Hall of the People.

Xi was also unanimously appointed chairman of the Central Military Commission, which leads the party’s military wing, the two-million-member People’s Liberation Army.an appointment automatically assigned to the party leader for three decades.

In another vote, the party’s third official, Zhao Lijie, was appointed chairman of the National People’s Congress. The vast majority of the body’s legislative work is chaired by its permanent committee, which meets throughout the year.

Zhao, 67, from the Standing Committee of the Party’s Politburo, the top of China’s political power chaired by Xi, won Xi’s trust as the head of the party’s anti-corruption oversight, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, to pursue anti-graft. The campaign that froze all potential opposition to Xi.

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Han Zheng, former chairman of the Shanghai Party and another member of the Politburo Standing Committee, is appointed to the largely ceremonial post of vice-president of state.

Then Xi, Zhao, and Han took an oath of office with one hand on a copy of the Chinese constitution. The session also sworn in 14 Vice Presidents of Congress.

Wang Huning, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, was later appointed chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the advisory body of the National People’s Congress that works in coordination with the party’s United Front Department, to build Xi’s influence and image abroad. Wang was a senior advisor to three Chinese leaders and authored books critical of Western politics and society.

Xi’s new mandate and appointment of loyalists to senior positions confirms his near monopoly on Chinese political power, eliminating any potential opposition to his hypernationalist agenda of building China into the greatest political, military, and economic rival of the United States and the president. The authoritarian challenge to the Washington-led democratic world order.

While six others serve with him on the Politburo Standing Committee, all of them have longstanding ties to Xi and can be counted on to know his will on issues from party discipline to economic management.

The Standing Committee has only men, and the 24-member Politburo, which has had only four women since the 1990s, also has no women following the departure of Vice Premier Sun Chunlan.

Li Qiang ranked second He is widely expected to take over as prime minister, nominally in charge of the cabinet and caretaker of the economy. Li became famous for ruthlessly imposing a brutal “zero COVID” lockdown on Shanghai last spring as party chief of the Chinese financial hub, proving his loyalty to Xi in the face of residents’ complaints about their lack of access to food and medical care. and basic services.

The former head of Guangdong Province’s manufacturing powerhouse, seventh-ranked Li Shi has already been appointed to replace Zhao as chairman of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

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The congress is also expected to pass measures that will intensify the party’s control over government agencies at the national level as part of Xi’s drive to centralize power under the party.

Opening the annual conference session on Sunday, outgoing Premier Li Keqiang announced plans to revive the ailing consumer-led economy, setting the growth target for this year at “around 5%.” Growth last year in the world’s second-largest economy fell to 3%, the second-weakest level since at least the 1970s.

Separately, the Finance Ministry announced a 7.2% increase in the defense budget. to 1.55 trillion yuan ($224 billion), which is a slight increase from 2022. China’s military spending is the second highest in the world after the United States.

In those days, Xi and his new foreign minister, Chen Gang, set a very combative tone for relations with the United States, amid tensions over trade, technology, Taiwan, human rights and Beijing’s refusal to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Chen warned in unusually blunt terms that frictions between the United States and China could lead to something more serious.

“If the United States does not hit the brakes, but continues to accelerate down the wrong track, no amount of barriers can prevent the derailment, and there will certainly be conflict and confrontation,” Chen said at his first press conference since taking office. year.

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

Xi followed up on Wednesday by calling for “more quickly raising the armed forces to a world-class level.”

China should maximize its “national strategic capabilities” in a bid to “systematically upgrade the country’s overall strength to deal with strategic risks, protect strategic interests and achieve strategic goals,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying at a meeting of delegates at the official Xinhua News Agency. an agency.

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Asked about the future of China’s foreign relations under Xi, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning spoke in a relatively moderate tone.

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

“We hope the US side can meet us halfway and push China-US relations onto the path of sound and stable development,” she said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom Xi has established close relations, issued his congratulations, saying Xi’s new term is “acknowledgment of your achievements as head of state, as well as broad support for your policy focused on China’s social and economic development and protection of its national interests on the world stage.”

Under Xi, China and Russia have declared a “borderless” relationship and China has firmly refused to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while repeating Moscow’s claim that the US and NATO are responsible for provoking the Kremlin. Beijing has also criticized sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, while Russia has staunchly supported China amid tensions with the United States over Taiwan.

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

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party, also sent congratulations, saying: “The two parties and two countries advocate socialism, the common cause, and support and cooperate closely.” China is impoverished and isolated North Korea’s most important political ally and source of food and fuel aid.

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Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

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Discover more AP China coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/china