BEIJING (AFP) – China’s rubber-stamp parliament unanimously handed President Xi Jinping a second term Saturday and elevated his right-hand man to the vice presidency, giving him a strong ally to consolidate power and handle US trade threats.
Mr Xi’s reappointment by the Communist Party-controlled legislature was a foregone conclusion, but all eyes had been on whether his former anti-corruption enforcer, Wang Qishan, would become his deputy.
The National People’s Congress has widely expanded Mr Xi’s already considerable authority during its annual session, adding his name to the constitution and lifting the two five-year term limit for the presidency and vice presidency.
Mr Xi received a standing ovation after winning all 2,970 votes for the presidency and Central Military Commission chairman.
Only one delegate voted against Mr Wang’s appointment, with 2,969 in favour.
As part of the package of constitutional amendments, Mr Xi and Mr Wang for the first time took the oath of office by pledging allegiance to the constitution.
Elevating Mr Wang allows Mr Xi to keep a formidable ally by his side, as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong cements his authority and sets his sights on a possible lifelong tenure.
Mr Wang, 69, stepped down from the Communist Party’s ruling council in October under informal retirement rules.
But he has kept a prominent profile, sitting at the same table as the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee during the public sessions of the National People’s Congress while receiving fervent applause from the delegates as he voted.
Mr Wang’s appointment shows that “he’s a really important political advisor,” said Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London.
Mr Wang was at the frontline of Mr Xi’s anti-corruption crusade, heading the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which has punished 1.5 million officials in the past five years, from low-level cadres to regional leaders and generals.
Known internationally in his previous role as China’s pointman on trade, Mr Wang could help Mr Xi deal with increasingly tense relations with the US amid fears of a looming trade war, analysts say.
Mr Wang replaces Li Yuanchao, a relatively low-profile politician who has represented Mr Xi on trips abroad.
Premier Li Keqiang, meanwhile, was given his second five-year term yesterday after being re-appointed with 2,964 votes.