Chinese President Xi Jinping today culminated a long process to achieve absolute power in China after the National People’s Assembly (ANP, the Legislature) appointed him for a third five-year term (2023-2028) unprecedented among his predecessors. .
After ratifying his position as Secretary General of the Communist Party (PPCh) at the XX Party Congress held last October, Xi also controls the Central Military Commission (CMC), a position equivalent to that of head of the Armed Forces, which ratifies an unquestionable control over the three arms of power: the State, the Party and the Army.
In recent years, and in order to achieve this scenario, Xi managed to remove from the Constitution the phrase that established a limit of two consecutive terms, in addition to including his political theories in the text to enlarge the cult of his personality and the concentration of power around his figure.
Born in Beijing in June 1953, Xi joined the CCP at the age of 22, but before beginning to climb the ranks in the formation, he had to wait for the rehabilitation of the family clan: his father, vice premier in the early 1950s. 60, he was purged during the Cultural Revolution – he was not released until 1975 – while he was “transferred” to a remote region of Shanxi province.
Little by little, Xi earned a reputation as pragmatic and ambitious, and began to build his own network of followers in the country’s coastal provinces – the most developed – until he was appointed governor of Fujian and, later, secretary of the CCP in Fujian. and Shanghai.
He was also in the right place at the right time: in the late 2000s, the Party was looking for a candidate with a pedigree and thought of him – nurtured by his father figure, rehabilitated and exalted during the reforms of the 1980s – to replace then President Hu Jintao.
The PCCh opted for a strong leadership, which earned it to get the general secretary of the formation in 2012 and, the following year, the presidency of the country under the promise of fighting the prevailing corruption -although critics assert that it used this strategy to erode its rivals – and seat China at the table of the great powers of the planet.
The Party bet everything on Xi’s card, burying the reforms that Deng Xiaoping introduced in 1982 and that for decades structured a collegial and limited power that avoided the excesses of the Mao Zedong era.
Although the cult of personality has existed towards other Chinese leaders, such as the charismatic Jiang Zemin, who died last year, Xi did not mince words and began promoting theoretical guides that heralded the arrival of a “new era” in which China it would be modernized by 2049, the year in which the People’s Republic will commemorate its centenary.
The challenges of his new term
The growing rivalry with the United States, the potential conflict with Taiwan – an island that Beijing claims -, the demographic challenges or reactivating the economy, battered by the real estate bubble and by the three years of isolation as a consequence of the strict zero covid policy, will be some of the challenges for Xi in the next five years.
To face them, the president already surrounded himself in the XX Congress with a new team of trusted men, who will ultimately have to be held accountable to achieve goals such as “common prosperity”, “technological self-sufficiency” or the “reunification” of Taiwan.
Xi himself has warned many times that China will sail in a “stormy sea” in the coming years, augurs calls for the utmost obedience and unity within the CCP.
But its biggest challenge, according to experts, will be dealing with the incessant and growing tension between Washington and Beijing: “China wants to convince the world that its development model works and can surpass the United States,” says Professor Xie Maosong, from Tsinghua University, to the South China Morning Post.
“But to reach that goal, Xi must first revive the economy and meet the goals of technological self-sufficiency in the midst of a hostile and unfavorable external environment,” he adds.
In addition, Xi will inaugurate his mandate after last December he faced unusual protests due to popular discontent with the zero covid policy that conditioned life in the country.
Not in vain, his third term also raises suspicions among those who predict “a worsening of civil and political rights, which were already seriously restricted, given that the authorities respond to complaints with more censorship, arbitrary arrests and repression,” denounced the last year the NGO Human Rights Watch.