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BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping has been given a second five-year term as leader of the ruling Communist Party.
Xi was returned to the post of secretary general following the inaugural meeting Wednesday of the new Central Committee that was elected at the party’s twice-a-decade national congress on Tuesday.
The party congress already elevated Xi’s status to China’s most powerful ruler in decades by inserting his name and dogma into the party’s constitution alongside past leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
That sets the stage for the authoritarian leader to tighten his grip over the country while pursuing an increasingly muscular foreign policy and military expansion. It also effectively makes any act of opposing him tantamount to an attack on the party itself.
Xi leads the party’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee.
Apart from Xi, Premier Li Keqiang was the only one to retain his spot amid sweeping changes on the Politburo Standing Committee, the height of power in China.
Li Zhanshu, Zhao Leji, Han Zheng, Wang Huning and Wang Yang were promoted, replacing five retiring members including anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan, a key Xi ally.
Xi himself was elevated to the committee in 2007, when he was 54, and succeeded Hu Jintao as general secretary and president five years later.
Despite their promotion to the nation’s highest leadership circle, the new committee members are likely to have much less influence than their predecessors under a newly empowered Xi.
The constitutional amendment, which the congress passed Tuesday, has put Xi in the rarefied company of the nation’s founder Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping, the architect of its economic reforms.
The document’s “all-round embracing of Xi’s thought reflects the high degree of consensus the Party has built around its leadership core,” the state-run China Daily wrote in an editorial Wednesday.
The accolade firmly establishes Xi as the country’s locus of power, potentially upending the collective model of leadership promoted by Deng and embraced by Xi’s two predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, who both stepped down after two terms.
In the past two administrations, decisions were the result of horse-trading and consultation among members of the standing committee, the council of party elders which has led China since Deng’s death in 1997.
But with his name in the constitution, Xi has become the nation’s ultimate authority, likely giving him the last word on all major decisions.
The five new committee members include Xi confidant Li Zhanshu, 67, vice premier Wang Yang, 62, leading Communist Party theoretician Wang Huning, 62, party organisation department head Zhao Leji, 60, and Shanghai party chief Han Zheng, 63.
At least one important figure did not make the cut, as Xi’s right-hand man Wang Qishan, 69, vacated his standing committee seat.
Analysts had thought the leader of the country’s anti-corruption campaign might be kept on in defiance of the party’s unofficial guideline that cadres retire at 68.