The appointment by China’s rubber-stamp parliament comes after Xi agreed in October to additional five years as leader of the Communist Party (CCP) and the military, the two most powerful positions in Chinese politics.
Since then, 69-year-old Xi has faced huge demonstrations over his zero-Covid policy and its subsequent abandonment, which resulted in the deaths of countless people.
These topics have been avoided during this week’s National People’s Congress (NPC), a meticulously orchestrated occasion that will also appoint Xi’s friend Li Qiang as the new premier.
And on Friday, they gave Xi a third term as China’s President, capping off a spectacular climb that has seen him emerge from obscurity to become the leader of a global superpower.
His coronation positions him to become modern China’s longest-serving president, with Xi expected to rule into his sixties if no rival arises.
Despite worldwide media investigations revealing his family’s amassed fortune, Adrian Geiges, co-author of “Xi Jinping: The Most Powerful Man in the World,” told AFP that he did not believe Xi was motivated by a desire for personal enrichment.
“That’s not his interest. He really has a vision about China, he wants to see China as the most powerful country in the world,” Geiges said.
– Tearing up the rulebook –
For decades, China, scarred by Mao Zedong’s totalitarian dictatorship and the cult of personality, avoided one-man rule in favour of more consensus-based, but nonetheless autocratic, leadership.
Term restrictions were placed on the mostly ceremonial nature of the presidency under that paradigm, with Xi’s predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao ceding power after ten years in office.
Xi has ripped up the rulebook, scrapping term limits in 2018 and fostering a personality cult around his all-powerful leadership.
Yet, the start of his historic third term as China’s leader comes as the world’s second-largest economy faces significant challenges, ranging from sluggish growth and a struggling real estate industry to a dropping birth rate.
Relations with the US are also at an all-time low, with the two countries clashing over issues ranging from human rights to commerce and technology.
“We will see a China more assertive on the global stage, insisting its narrative to be accepted,” Steve Tsang, Director of the SOAS China Institute, told AFP.
“But it is also one that will focus on domestically making it less dependent on the rest of the world, and making the Communist Party the centrepiece of governance, rather than the Chinese Government,” he said.
“It is not a return to the Maoist era, but one that Maoist will feel comfortable in. Not a direction of travel that is good for the rest of the world,” Tsang added.