China’s Xi Jinping unanimously elected to serve third term as president

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Chinese President Xi Jinping won an official third five-year term as president Friday, following a vote by the country’s mostly ceremonial legislature.

The National People’s Congress voted 2,952 to 0 to re-elect Xi, who is 69, putting him on track to stay in power for life.

Xi’s victory was a foregone conclusion as he has sidelined potential rivals and filled the top ranks of the ruling Communist Party with his own supporters since he first rose to power in 2012.

Members of the NPC are appointed by the ruling party and dissenters are not common.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds during a session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Friday, March 10, 2023.  (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Xi named himself to a third five-year term as party general secretary in October, breaking a longstanding Chinese tradition where leaders hand over power after two terms, or once a decade.

His two-term limit was previously deleted from the Chinese constitution, leading experts to predict he could choose to stay in power for life.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping walks to cast his vote during a session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) to select state leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Friday, March 10, 2023. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping walks to cast his vote during a session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) to select state leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Friday, March 10, 2023.  (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

NPC members were not given a list of potential other candidates, so it was assumed Xi ran unopposed. The election process was mostly done in secret.

In tandem with the presidency extension, Xi was unanimously named commander of the People’s Liberation Army, the formal name for China’s military.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping looks up after casting his vote to select state leaders during a session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Friday, March 10, 2023. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping looks up after casting his vote to select state leaders during a session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Friday, March 10, 2023.  (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The Chinese armed forces are unique in that they are led by the ruling political party, rather than its members swearing an oath to defend the country or a constitution.

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The elections were held as China is facing increasing international pressure to subside its aggression in the East China Sea and its hostilities with Taiwan and Hong Kong, and to call for Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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