BEIJING, March 10 (Reuters) – Xi Jinping on Friday secured a landmark third five-year term as China’s president as he tightens his grip as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
Nearly 3,000 members of China’s stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), unanimously voted for Xi, 69, as president in the Great Hall of the People in an election that saw no other candidate.
Voting took about an hour and the electronic count was completed in about 15 minutes.
The groundwork for another Xi term was set when he lifted the presidential term cap in 2018. His power was extended last October when he was re-elected General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee for another five years.
Over the next two days, Xi-approved officials are expected to be appointed or elected to fill top cabinet positions, including the waiting Premier Li Qiang, who is expected to be appointed to China’s No. 2 post, putting him in charge of managing the second-largest economy of the world.
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Xi chatted casually with Li, who sat to his left, as delegates placed ballots in electronic ballot boxes.
Parliament’s election of heads of state comes three months after strict COVID-19 policies were dismantled and a new wave of infections caused by the highly transmissible Omicron strain swept the country. With the exception of dozens of top executives, all other delegates and staff wore masks.
Xi is due to address Monday before the end of the annual parliamentary session as China faces several challenges including an economy hampered by three years of COVID restrictions and deteriorating ties with the West.
Earlier this week, Xi blamed the United States and the West for the difficulties facing China’s economy, an unusual remark from him for being directly in Washington.
While the president’s role is largely ceremonial, Xi has already been re-elected by the party to chair its central military commission and has begun his third five-year term as commander-in-chief of the Chinese armed forces.
The parliament also elected Zhao Leji, 66, as the new parliament speaker and Han Zheng, 68, as the new vice president. Both men belonged to Xi’s previous team of party leaders on the Politburo Standing Committee.
Reporting by Yew Lun Tian Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Christian Schmollinger and Lincoln Feast.
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