China’s Xi Jinping has secured a historic third term as head of state from the nation’s rubber-stamp parliament.
This comes after a consolidation of power that has seen Mr Xi, 69, become China’s most dominant leader in generations.
The functions of the Chinese president are largely ceremonial their system of governance.
Xi’s power was strengthened when he became General Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).
He was handed both posts at a party congress in October 2022.
Confirmation of his third term as president had been widely foreseen. The naming of a new premier and various ministers in the coming days is considered very crucial.
The new appointees are majorly expected to be Xi Jinping loyalists. This includes Li Qiang, who is tipped to serve as Mr Xi’s number two.
On Friday, Mr Xi has also gained another term as the chairman of the CMC of the People’s Republic of China. There are two CMCs in the country – one is a party organisation while another is a state institution – but their make-up is usually the same.
Mr Xi has cemented his rule as China reopens from his bruising zero-Covid policy that has fuelled anti-government protests. The country is also facing a dropping birth rate that threatens its economic growth engine.
Relations between China and the USA remain testy, recently highlighted by allegations that China had been spying on the US with balloons.
“Whether a strengthened Xi and increasing centralisation is sufficient to overcome these problems – or perhaps make them worse – is unknown and perhaps not knowable at present,” Ian Chong, a political scientist at the National University Singapore said.
“In a sense, Xi is betting that centralisation under the party with him at the helm is a solution to these disparate issues,” he said.
The so-called Two Sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) this week is closely watched as it shows a glimpse into China’s direction in the coming years.
Since the leadership of Mao Zedong, heads of state in China had been limited to two terms in office. When Mr Xi had this restriction changed in 2018, it transformed him into a figure with a reach not seen since Chairman Mao.
Also on Friday, the national legislature appointed Han Zheng, a 68-year-old former Politburo Standing Committee member, as vice president.
The importance of the position varies since its functions are not fully defined. However, the last vice president, Wang Qishan, fronted Mr Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, Chong said.
Chances are that Mr Han will follow Mr Xi’s direction closely and enforce the president’s policies as necessary, he noted.