BEIJING: Xi Jinping sec­ured a historic third term as China’s leader on Sunday and filled his inner circle with close allies, achieving after a decade in power complete dominance over the ruling Communist Party.

The party’s Central Com­m­ittee elected Xi as its general secretary for another five-year term, bringing the country back towards one-man rule after decades of power-sharing among its elite.

“I wish to thank the whole party sincerely for the trust you have placed in us,” Xi told journalists at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People after the closed-door vote was announced.

Xi, 69, was also reappo­inted head of China’s Central Military Commission, keeping him in charge of the People’s Liberation Army.

He is now all but certain to sail through to a third term as the country’s president, due to be formally announced during the government’s annual legislative sessions in March.

Sunday’s developments cement him as the most powerful leader since Communist Party founder Mao Zedong.

In a wide-ranging acceptance speech on Sunday, Xi made signature remarks celebrating China’s rise as a global power and its success under his rule.

“The world needs China,” Xi said.

“After more than 40 years of unflagging efforts towards reform and opening up, we have created two miracles — rapid economic development and long-term social stability.”

Six of Xi’s proteges and allies were also unveiled on Sunday alongside him as members of the Politburo Standing Committee — the party’s apex of power that rules the country.

Li Qiang, a former chief of staff for Xi who oversaw a gruelling two-month Covid lockdown in Shanghai this year, was named as number two in the committee.

This means he is likely to take over as premier from Li Keqiang, a former Xi rival who will retire next year.

Close aide Ding Xuexiang and Guangdong party chief Li Xi, a long-time confidante of the president, were among other allies named in the Standing Committee.

“The new Politburo Standing Committee confirms decisively that Xi has consolidated power at the top of the Communist Party to an extent unseen since the Mao era,” said Neil Thomas, a senior China analyst at Eurasia Group.

“Xi has installed allies onto all seven seats of the Communist Party’s top decision-making body, allowing him to dominate the political system for the foreseeable future.”

Alfred Wu Muluan, a Chinese politics expert at the National University of Singapore, said: “It is all Xi’s people, signalling he wants to rule even beyond a third term.”

Xi abolished the presidential two-term limit in 2018, paving the way for him to govern indefinitely.

Xi was swiftly congratulated on Sunday by some of China’s allies, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The United States offered no immediate response.

Rivals relegated

Sunday’s announcements came after a week-long Congress of 2,300 hand-picked party delegates during which they endorsed Xi Jinping’s “core position” in the leadership and approved a sweeping reshuffle that saw Li Keqiang, the prime minister, and other former Xi rivals relegated.

On Saturday the delegates elected the Central Committee of around 200 senior party officials, who chose the 24-person politburo and the standing committee.

Analysts had closely watched for whether the party charter would be amended during the Congress to enshrine “Xi Jinping Thought” as a guiding philosophy, a move that would have put Xi on a par with Mao.

That did not take place, though a resolution did call the creed “the Marxism of contemporary China and of the 21st century”, adding that it “embodies the best Chinese culture and ethos of this era”.

Alvi, Shehbaz greet Xi

President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif have congratulated Xi Jinping on securing a third term as chief of China’s Communist Party (CPC), APP adds.

The president said in his message that Xi was Pakistan’s true friend and expressed a hope that relations between the two countries would further strengthen in the days to come.

“I extend my heartiest congratulations to Xi Jinping on his re-election as CPC General Secretary and my best wishes for his health and happiness,” Dr Alvi said.

“He is a true friend of Pakistan and a champion for All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership between Pakistan and China.”

The prime minister said in his message that Xi’s re-election was a testament to his unwavering devotion to serving the people of China.

“On behalf of the entire Pakistani nation, I congratulate President Xi Jinping on his re-election as CPC General Secretary for the 3rd term,” Shehbaz Sharif said.

“It is a glowing tribute to his sagacious stewardship and unwavering devotion for serving the people of China.”

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif also felicitated Xi Jinping, saying that his re-election reflected the trust reposed in him by the Chinese nation.

“Heartiest felicitations to President Xi on his re-election as CPC General Secretary. It is a testament to the recognition of his services by the people of China and indeed their confidence in his able leadership. Long live Pak-China friendship,” Nawaz Sharif said.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2022

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