Beijing (AFP) - Xi Jinping secured a historic third term as China's leader on Sunday, state media reported, after a Communist Party Congress in which he cemented his position as the nation's most influential leader since founder Mao Zedong.
The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party elected Xi as its general secretary for another five-year term, Xinhua reported, tilting the country decisively back towards one-man rule after decades of power-sharing among its elite.
His anointment in a closed-door vote on Sunday came after a week-long gathering of the party faithful in Beijing during which they endorsed Xi's "core position" in the leadership and approved a sweeping reshuffle that saw former rivals step down.
Xi is now all but certain to sail through to a third term as China's president, due to be formally announced during the government's annual legislative sessions in March.
The 20th Congress wrapped up on Saturday after elected the new Central Committee of around 200 senior party officials, who gathered on Sunday to elect the Standing Committee -- the apex of Chinese political power at which Xi sits firmly at the top.
Since becoming the country's leader a decade ago, Xi has achieved a concentration of power like no modern Chinese ruler other than Mao.
He abolished the presidential two-term limit in 2018, paving the way for him to govern indefinitely.
Xi has also overseen China’s rise as the world’s second-biggest economy, a huge military expansion and a far more aggressive global posture that has drawn strong opposition from the United States.
Despite nearly unchecked power, Xi faces huge challenges over the next five years, including managing the nation’s debt-ridden economy and the growing US rivalry.
- Contemporary China -
Sunday’s vote brings to an end a triumphant week at which China's top brass have hailed their leadership of the country over the last five years.
In his opening speech to its 20th Congress last Sunday, Xi lauded the party's achievements while glossing over domestic problems such as the stalling economy and the damage inflicted by his harsh zero-Covid policy.
Heavy on ideological rhetoric and light on policy, a defiant Xi also urged party members to steel themselves against numerous challenges including a hardening geopolitical climate.
Analysts were closely watching for whether the party charter would be amended to enshrine "Xi Jinping Thought" as a guiding philosophy, a move that would put Xi on a par with Mao.
That did not take place, though a resolution did call the creed "the Marxism of contemporary China and of the 21st century", adding that it "embodies the best Chinese culture and ethos of this era".
- Hu led away -
In an unexpected move that punctured the proceedings at Saturday's Congress closing ceremony, former leader Hu Jintao was led out of the hall.
The frail-looking 79-year-old seemed reluctant to leave the front row where he was sitting next to Xi.
State media reported late Saturday that Hu had insisted on attending the session despite being unwell.
"When he was not feeling well during the session, his staff, for his health, accompanied him to a room next to the meeting venue for a rest.Now, he is much better," Xinhua said on Twitter, a social media platform that is blocked in China.