Xi Jinping was today re-elected president for a second five-year tenure by China’s rubber-stamp parliament, days after it scrapped the two-term rule for the presidency and allowed him to have a life-long tenure. The NPC has also elected 64-year-old Xi as the head of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high command of the two million strong Chinese military, the world’s largest.
Xi has already been elected as general secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) at its once-in-five-year congress in October last year. Significantly, Xi’s loyalist and close confidant Wang Qishan, 69, has been elected as Vice-President, who like Xi is set for a lifelong tenure.
Today’s election comes after the National People’s Congress (NPC) on March 11 ratified the constitutional amendment for removing the two-term limit for president and vice-president proposed by the CPC. The election will ensure Xi heads the CPC, the military and the presidency, perhaps for life. He is the first Chinese leader to have that privilege after party founder Chairman Mao Zedong, who ruled China from 1949 till his death in 1976.
Technically, the election marks Xi’s second-term, which would last till 2023. But after the constitutional amendments removed the term limit he is expected to have a limitless tenure.
Xi was elected unanimously as president and head of CMC by 2,970 deputies of NPC, which has the reputation of being a rubber-stamp parliament for routinely ratifying CPC proposals. Wang, however got 2,969, one vote less in the carefully choreographed poll. Observers say the one vote dissent was officially sanctioned to show diversity in China’s political system.
After the results were announced in the nationally televised show of the NPC proceedings, Xi bowed and shook hands with colleagues. For the first time, he along with other officials took oath on the newly-amended Constitution, swearing to be faithful to the charter of the People’s Republic of China, defend its authority, be loyal to the country and the people.
The oath also stipulates that they will be committed and honest while performing duties, accept people’s supervision and work hard to help build a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful. Another of Xi’s close aides Li Zhanshu who was chief of staff was elected chairman of NPC. The parliament also ratified a new plan to revamp the government.
Wang is the most feared official in China as he carried out the dreaded anti-corruption campaign for the past five years initiated by Xi, in which over 1.5 million officials including over 100 ministers and top generals were punished in the biggest such crackdown in China’s recent history. Originally Xi was set to retire by 2023 as head of the CPC, the military and presidency following a two-term limit followed by his predecessors. He first became president in 2013.
The two-term limit was adopted by the party after Mao’s death to ensure collective leadership to avert mistakes like the brutal Cultural Revolution that killed millions. Critics point out that the election of Wang too was in violation of the unwritten rule of retirement at age 68 followed by all top CPC leaders so far. He has been elected to the powerful post even though he is 69. Wang is expected to be given a portfolio covering China’s ambitious global affairs agenda, including handling rocky relations with the US, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.