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Xi Jinping secures 3rd term as China's Communist Party leader, further concentrating power

Chinese President Xi Jinping secured an unusual third term as leader of the Chinese Communist Party, the country's most powerful position, after a weeklong Party congress session that ended on Sunday, according to Chinese state media Xinhua News Agency.

Why it matters: With Xi as China's unchallenged leader for another five-year term, Beijing is likely to continue its current trajectory of confrontation with the West.

  • Xi, 69, has surpassed the informal retirement age of 68 and could be in a position for life-long rule.
  • His selection paves the way for him to again be named the country's president at the annual legislative session in March.

Details: During the meeting, some key Communist party leaders retired from the powerful seven-member Politburo standing committeeand several of Xi's closest allies and proteges were instated.

  • Premier Li Keqiang — China’s second-highest ranking leader — and Wang Yang both retired, even though they were eligible for another five-year term. Li and Wang were not viewed as being close Xi allies.
  • Shanghai party secretary Li Qiang was appointed to the standing committee and is considered a front-runner to be named premier, the country's second-highest position, at a meeting next March. Li was in charge of Shanghai during its heavily criticized lockdown earlier this year, making his ongoing position heavily dependent on Xi's support.
  • The full membership roster of the new standing committee is Xi Jinping, Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang and Li Xi.
  • The Party constitution was also amended to enshrine Xi as the "core" leader.

The big picture: Xi's third term signals an end to collective leadership and a return to strongman rule.

  • A model of elite power-sharing was adopted in the 1980s after the death of Chinese dictator Mao Zedong, to help prevent the rise of another all-powerful leader.
  • Xi has slowly chipped away at collective leadership by sidelining rival factions and forcing through an end to presidential term limits in 2018. His selection for a third term as party general secretary marks the culmination of that ten-year process.

Of note: Former Chinese President Hu Jintao was unexpectedly escorted out of the closing ceremony of the Communist Party Congress on Saturday.

  • No explanation was initially given for the incident that took place in front of international media during a highly choreographed event, sparking speculation that Xi might be choosing to publicly humiliate Hu to demonstrate his own unbounded power.
  • Chinese state media later said the former leader was not feeling well.

What to watch: The new leadership reinforces the leading role ideology has taken in Xi's China and sidelines elite-level dissent.

  • Xi is likely to have a freer hand to make controversial decisions in both domestic and foreign policy, such as further strengthening state control over the economy or taking assertive measures towards Taiwan.
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