Chinese leader Xi Jinping was awarded a third five-year term as the nation’s president Friday, putting him on track to stay in power for life at a time of severe economic challenges and rising tensions with the U.S. and others.
The endorsement of Xi’s appointment by the ceremonial National People’s Congress was a foregone conclusion for a leader who has sidelined potential rivals and filled the top ranks of the ruling Communist Party with his supporters since taking power in 2012.
The vote for Xi was 2,952 to 0 by the NPC, members of which are appointed by the ruling party.
Xi, 69, had himself named to a third five-year term as party general secretary in October, breaking with a tradition under which Chinese leaders handed over power once a decade. A two-term limit on the figurehead presidency was deleted from the Chinese Constitution earlier, prompting suggestions he might stay in power for life.
There was no indication that members of the National People’s Congress had any option other than to endorse Xi and other officials picked by the Communist Party for other posts. When Xi was named to his first term as president in 2013, NPC members received a ballot with only his name on it and dropped it unchanged into a box. On Friday, reporters were kept at a distance and couldn’t see the four ballots that each delegate deposited into boxes placed around the vast auditorium of the Great Hall of the People.