Chinese leader Xi Jinping secured an unprecedented third term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party on Sunday, according to state news agency Xinhua.
The appointment comes after a week-long party congress during which the 69-year-old leader tightened his grip on the country, making him arguably the most powerful individual in the world, according to some analysts. And it paves the way for him to get another five-year term as the country’s president in the annual legislative session in March and continue his line of confrontation with the West.
Beijing has become increasingly aggressive both militarily and economically as it moves closer to a belligerent Russia.
At 69, Xi has passed the informal retirement age of 68 and could be in a ruling position for life. In 2018, Xi waived the two-term presidential limit, allowing him to rule indefinitely.
In a dramatic scene on Saturday during the highly choreographed meeting, former Chinese President Hu Jintao was unexpectedly escorted from the closing ceremony of the Communist Party congress, in what was seen by some as a sign that Hu is failing health , and by others as a stage symbol of Xi’s strengthened powers.
Xi also retained the title of military chief.
He has appointed officials who analysts say are his protégés and allies to the party’s Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top governing body. Among them he mentions, for example, Wang Huning, described as the ideologue who shaped Xi’s nationalist views; Cai Qi, whose ties to Xi go back more than two decades; and Ding Xuexiang, a close Xi aide who often travels with the president.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a congratulatory message to Xi on his third term, the Kremlin said. Putin told the Chinese president that he looked forward to further developing the “comprehensive relationship and strategic alliance between our two states.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is planning a trip to China next month and is set to be the first Western leader to welcome Xi as the newly appointed leader. EU leaders at a meeting on Friday discussed the bloc’s line on China.
While Scholz insisted the EU must remain a beacon of global trade, even with China, others, such as Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, said many leaders during the discussion stressed that “we must not repeat the fact that we were indifferent, indulgent. , superficial in our relations with Russia.”
And they also stressed that “those that look like business relationships … are part of a general direction of the Chinese system, so they must be treated as such,” Draghi added.