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China's President Xi Jinping re-elected to third five-year term

China's National People's Congress, which has an advisory role only, on Friday confirmed President Xi Jinping's election to a third term as the country's leader through 2027. File Photo by Mark R. Cristino/EPA-EFE
China's National People's Congress, which has an advisory role only, on Friday confirmed President Xi Jinping's election to a third term as the country's leader through 2027. File Photo by Mark R. Cristino/EPA-EFE

March 10 (UPI) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping was re-elected for a third five year-term Friday by the 14th National People's Congress, consolidating his near absolute grip on power.

The election makes Xi the longest-serving leader of the people's republic since its founding in 1949 and only the second leader to serve more than two terms since Mao Zedong.

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While the role of president is largely ceremonial, the annual meeting of the rubber-stamp legislature also elected Xi chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, which makes him commander-in-chief of all of China's armed forces.

Xi received congratulations from neighboring Pakistan.

"I congratulate H.E. President Xi Jinping on his unanimous re-election. The ironclad brotherhood has grown from strength to strength," President Arif Alvi said in a Twitter post. "As China's closest friend and all-weather partners, we look forward to working closely with President Xi to take relations to new heights.

Xi was elected for a third term as General Secretary of the Communist Party in October after the party congress approved a pair of charter amendments to its constitution abolishing rules that limit the president from serving more than two consecutive terms.

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Party members at the gathering in Beijing unanimously approved amendments to the guiding document, including "new developments" on Xi's "thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics," under which his continued leadership of the party was deemed core to the party's mission.

The meeting also saw Xi consolidate his control of the party by filling the most senior leadership roles with his political allies.

On his election as party chairman in October, Xi said China could not develop in isolation from the world, adding that Beijing would open its door "ever wider" and move toward "deepening reform and opening up across the board and in pursuing high-quality development."

But Western businesses and investors have been growing increasingly wary of China after crackdowns on technology companies and its draconian COVID-19 restrictions.

October's election of delegates to the party's central committee was also reflective of a power grab.

Notably absent from the 205-strong list were several committee members known for their less than fervent backing of Xi, including Wang Yang, a pro-reform figure who heads the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and Premier Li Keqiang, who is seeking to retire from politics.

Experts warn that a central committee, politburo and standing committee dominated by Xi would mean a significant loss of checks and balances that will help Xi achieve his goal of holding onto power until the 22nd party congress in 2032 when he will be 79.

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