China’s National People’s Congress appointed President Xi Jinping to a third five-year term on Friday, breaking with the country’s tradition of handing over power once a decade.
Xi’s appointment was reportedly a foregone conclusion, as he has sidelined potential rivals and filled the top positions in the Chinese Communist Party with his own supporters since first taking office in 2012.
The 69-year-old Xi had named himself to a third term as CCP general secretary in October, after a two-term limit on the figurehead presidency had been eradicated in 2018, prompting suggestions that he plans to rule for life.
Xi has also been named commander of the People’s Liberation Army, a 2-million member force. In a speech on Thursday Xi called for “more quickly elevating the armed forces to world-class standards” amid heightened tensions between China and the U.S.
The latest diplomatic strain between the two world powers follows the Pentagon’s downing of a Chinese spy balloon over South Carolinian waters after it had crossed the continental U.S., as well as increased U.S. military postures in Taiwan and Japan.
On Tuesday, China’s Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, warned that Beijing and Washington were headed for “conflict and confrontation” if the U.S. doesn’t change course.
Chinese officials, meanwhile, have been meeting with Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin. Despite China’s official neutrality in Russia’s war in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, “We have information that gives us concern that [the Chinese] are considering providing lethal support to Russia.”
Both Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un have sent congratulations to Xi on his third term.