Xi clinches third presidential term amid host of challenges

Xi Jinping secured a precedent-breaking third five-year presidential term on Friday during a parliamentary session in which he further tightened his control as China faces mounting challenges at home and globally, Reuters reported.

Nearly 3,000 members of China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), voted unanimously in the Great Hall of the People for the 69-year-old Xi in an election where there was no other candidate.

Xi, who has taken China in a more authoritarian direction since assuming control a decade ago, extends his tenure amid increasingly adversarial relations with the Washington and West over Taiwan, Beijing’s backing of Russia, trade and human rights.

Domestically, the world’s second-largest economy faces a challenging recovery from three years of Xi’s zero-COVID policy, fragile confidence among consumers and businesses and weak global demand for Chinese exports.

China’s economy grew just 3% last year, among its worst performances in decades, and during parliament Beijing set a modest growth target for this year of just around 5%.

“In his third term, Xi will need to focus on economic revival,” said Willy Lam, senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. think tank. “But if he continues with what he has been doing – tighter party and state control over the private sector and confrontation with the West, his prospects for success won’t be encouraging.”

Xi set the stage for another term when he did away with presidential term limits in 2018, and has become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, who founded the People’s Republic.

China’s presidency is largely ceremonial, and Xi’s main position of power was extended last October when he was reconfirmed for five more years as general secretary of the central committee of the Communist Party.

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