FEATURE: Xi re-elected unanimously as President

BEIJING (The Straits Times/ANN) - He has now completed his hold on power at party and state levels.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has been unanimously elected to a second term, days after the lifting of presidential term limits allowed him to stay in office indefinitely.

Mr Xi, 64, was also elected chairman of the state Central Military Commission (CMC), securing all 2,970 ballots cast at yesterday's (Mar 17) meeting of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), or Parliament.

Together with his re-election as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary and appointment as chairman of the party CMC last October, he has completed his hold on power over party and state.

He begins his second five-year term as the most powerful man in China since Mao Zedong, according to some observers.

His allies - Mr Wang Qishan, 69, and Mr Li Zhanshu, 67 - were elected Vice-President and NPC chairman with 99.9 and 100 per cent of the vote, respectively.

Last Wednesday (Mar 14), Mr Wang Yang was also unanimously elected chairman of the top political advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

If Mr Xi's vote share had fallen short of 100 per cent, it would have shown "there are a few very courageous individuals", said Professor Steve Tsang of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Mr Xi had been strengthening his grip on power in the past five years and was anointed in late 2016 as the CCP's "core" leader.

At the party's five-yearly national congress last October, his political thought - the Xi Jinping Thought On Socialism With Chinese Characteristics For A New Era - was written into the party Constitution. No other leader except Mao had had their guiding theory written into the charter while still in office.

It was also written into the state Constitution last Sunday (Mar 11).

Mr Xi has chosen as his vice-president Mr Wang, hitherto his anti-corruption czar, at a time when the external environment is becoming more difficult for China. Mr Wang is expected to handle China's foreign policy and, in particular, its relationship with the United States.

Not only will he have to deal with a looming trade war with the US, but Washington has also named China as its strategic competitor.

There has also been pushback against Mr Xi's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build infrastructure along trade routes linking China to Europe, with countries like Germany regarding it as way for China to practise new imperialism, noted Professor Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute.

Australia, Japan, India and the US have started a security dialogue and proposed a version of the BRI to balance China, he added.

As for what Mr Xi might be focusing on domestically in the next few years, Prof Zheng thinks he will be working on institutional reforms to integrate the party with the state.

This, Prof Zheng said, would have a significant impact on China with party domination of the state, economy and society.

Mr Xi, in his speech at last October's congress, had said: "Government, military, society and schools, east, south, west, north and centre, the party leads everything."

After the voting, the leaders took an oath of allegiance to the Chinese Constitution, the first time this has taken place. They pledged to "build a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful".


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