Chinese leader Xi Jinping was on March 10, 2023 formally reappointed as President for a third five-year term.
The National People’s Congress (NPC), a largely ceremonial legislature, unanimously endorsed Mr. Xi, 69, with all of its 2,952 present members casting votes in favour of his reappointment, and none abstaining or opposing.
While Mr. Xi’s selection was a foregone conclusion – he was already appointed General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party in October 2022 for a third term – this week’s NPC session has underlined the extent of his unchallenged control and the return of one-man rule to China.
Five years after the NPC ended the two-term limit – Mr. Xi’s predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, stepped down after ten years at the helm – it rubber stamped the appointments of Mr. Xi and his allies to top positions for the next five years.
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On Friday, Han Zheng, the former Vice Premier, was appointed Vice President in another 2,952-0 result, while two other Xi allies were appointed to head the NPC and the CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), the upper and lower houses, also unopposed.
A long-time Xi ally, Li Qiang, is on Saturday expected to be appointed Premier, succeeding Li Keqiang, a Hu Jintao ally who has retired after two terms. The new Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who recently visited India for the G-20 meet, is likely to be appointed on Sunday as one of several new State Councillors, taking over from Wang Yi, who has been promoted to the Politburo. The appointment will also likely mean Mr. Qin takes over as Special Representative on the India-China border negotiations.
The annual NPC session, which has announced an annual growth target of “around 5%” and a 7.2% hike in defence spending, will conclude on Monday. Besides personnel appointments, the NPC on Friday also approved a sweeping restructuring plan aimed at boosting some of Mr. Xi’s key policy goals. The biggest change is a restructuring of the Ministry of Science and Technology “to better allocate resources to overcome challenges in key and core technologies, and move faster toward greater self-reliance in science and technology.”
A new National Financial Regulatory Administration has also been set up to more closely manage the country’s $60 trillion banking assets and the entire financial industry except the securities sector. A new National Data Bureau will be in charge of all data-related institutions and managing data resources. The restructuring plan also announced that central-level institutions will downsize staff by 5%.
This is the second major restructuring of government, following an earlier reform of the party-state machinery by Mr. Xi, that observers said had brought back closer Communist Party oversight over government bodies, reversing a decades-long effort, going back to the post-Mao years, to separate the functioning of party and government.