The result of the deputies’ vote, without appeal (2,952 votes for, zero against, zero abstentions), was greeted by thunderous applause from the parliamentarians gathered in Beijing, in the huge People’s Palace bordering Tiananmen Square. Since the Parliament was, in practice, subservient to the ruling Communist Party (CCP), the outcome of the ballot was in no doubt.
The 69-year-old leader had already obtained in October a five-year extension at the top of the CCP and the military commission of the Party, the two most important positions of power in China. The only candidate, Xi Jinping, was reappointed for the same term as head of state.
As soon as the result was announced, three soldiers in ceremonial uniform went down the stairs of the monumental room where the deputies met, before placing a copy of the Constitution on a desk. “I swear to be (…) loyal to the fatherland and the people (…) and to work hard for the building of a great modern socialist country which is prosperous, strong, democratic, more civilized and harmonious “, promised Xi Jinping, right fist raised and left hand on the document.
The last few months have however been complicated for him, with large demonstrations at the end of November against his “zero Covid” policy and a large wave of deaths which followed the abandonment of this health strategy in December.
China’s most powerful leader in decades
His re-election on Friday caps a remarkable political rise in which he went from politician little known to the general public to the most powerful Chinese leader in decades. Author of a biography on Xi Jinping, the Swiss writer and journalist Adrian Geiges believes, however, that personal enrichment is not his primary motivation. “He really has a vision for China, he wants China to become the most powerful country in the world,” he said.
For decades, the People’s Republic of China, scalded by political chaos and the cult of personality during the reign (1949-1976) of its leader and founder Mao Tse-tung, had promoted a more collegial governance at the top of power. By virtue of this model, Xi Jinping’s predecessors, namely Jiang Zemin and then Hu Jintao, had each given up their place as president after ten years in this position. But Mr. Xi put an end to this rule by abolishing the limit of two presidential terms in the Constitution in 2018, while allowing a quasi-cult of personality to develop around him.
Xi Jinping thus becomes the supreme leader to stay in power for the longest time in recent Chinese history. Septuagenarian at the end of this new mandate, he could even potentially extend for a new five-year term if no credible dolphin asserts himself in the meantime.
China faces many challenges
But its challenges remain numerous at the head of the second world economy, between the slowdown in growth, the fall in the birth rate or even the international image of China which has deteriorated sharply in recent years. Relations with the United States are at their lowest, with many disputes, from Taiwan to the treatment of Uyghur Muslims, to rivalry in technology. Xi Jinping again this week condemned the “policy of containment, encirclement and repression against China” put in place by “Western countries led by the United States”.
“We are going to see a more self-confident China on the international scene, which will assert its discourse in a more pronounced way” while trying “to reduce its dependence on the rest of the world”, predicts Steve Tsang, of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London.
Parliament also held formal elections for other institutional posts on Friday. Until now Deputy Prime Minister, Han Zheng (68 years old) was elected Vice-President to replace Wang Qishan (74 years old). The chairmanship of the parliamentary standing committee goes to Zhao Leji.
Putin congratulates re-elected Xi and hails ‘strengthening’ of their cooperation
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday sent his “sincere congratulations” to his “dear friend” Xi Jinping, re-elected in China, and praised the “strengthening” of their cooperation amid the conflict in Ukraine. “Russia greatly appreciates your personal contribution to strengthening relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation between our countries. I am sure that by acting together, we will ensure the development of fruitful Russian-Chinese cooperation in several fields,” he said. said Mr. Putin, in a message published by the Kremlin.
“We will continue to coordinate our joint work on the most important issues on the regional and international agenda,” the Russian president added.