Xi Establishes His Political Supremacy by Concentrating on the Economy and the U.S. Rivalry

In a ceremonial vote, the assembly, which is run by the Communist Party, supported Xi Jinping for an unusual third term as China’s president, solidifying his hold on power.

As he prepares the nation for an age of superpower competition and works to restore a devastated economy, Xi Jinping cemented his position as China’s most potent leader in decades by moving into a second term as president on Friday.

After claiming a second term as party head in October, Mr. Xi’s ongoing rule of Chinese politics was confirmed by the legislative’s consensus decision on the presidency. The legislature is dominated by the Communist Party. He will continue to control the three major pillars of Chinese authority, the party, military, and state, without any challengers or possible heirs competing for the spotlight.

Having established his personal authority, Mr. Xi, 69, is now portraying himself as the tough leader that China requires in a dangerous environment, ignoring the critiques that his authoritarian leadership style is increasing the perils to the nation.

The party’s draconian approach to achieving “zero Covid” hurt the economy, sparked unusually large-scale demonstrations, and increased investor concerns about the chances for the nation’s long-term development. Under Mr. Xi, China’s relations with the West have deteriorated, particularly as a result of Beijing’s increased pressure on Taiwan and China’s strong ties to Russia during the Ukrainian conflict.

The Communist Party has called on the country to support Mr. Xi during a gathering of the National People’s Congress, the legislative, which took place in Beijing. This week, Mr. Xi publicly accused the United States of “all-around containment, encirclement, and suppression” while speaking with business executives, suggesting that Western hostility was a contributing factor in some of China’s economic problems.

The business executives who were part of an advising committee were warned by Mr. Xi that “in the coming period, the risks and challenges that we’re facing will only become more and more numerous and grim.” In addition to warning of “struggle,” he encouraged officials to stay “calm and focused.”

In order to implement his plan of restoring development and protecting China against dangers at home and abroad, Mr. Xi is getting ready to appoint his reliable officials to a new government roster. He’s made an effort to reassure uneasy private companies that the party supports them. He started reorganizing the government to better manage financial threats and promote more domestic science invention.

But sometimes Mr. Xi’s signals are unclear, if not conflicting.

Private companies have been urged to support the party’s goals, including those related to national security and agricultural development, even as he offered a hand of friendship and referred to them as “one of us” While Mr. Xi’s cautions against the West may help him win support at home, a more combative posture runs the risk of increasing hostilities with Washington and jeopardizing China’s economic revival.

“We’ll be able to tell whether Xi is contrite or unbowed during this time. In an interview, Christopher K. Johnson, a senior associate at the Asia Society’s Center for China Analysis and a former C.I.A. expert, said, “I wouldn’t expect him to change a lot of the fundamentals.” “Xi is not on a charm offensive where he is looking to change his ways,” the author claims.

Mr. Xi has indicated that, for the time being at least, he is ready to fight back against American penalties and limitations against Chinese companies as well as its growing military operations throughout Asia. China’s defense budget is expected to be increased by 7.2% this year, which will improve the People’s Liberation Army’s ability to spread influence beyond Chinese borders.

The attempts of Mr. Xi and President Biden to defuse the situation have been derailed by disagreements over a Chinese monitoring blimp and the Biden administration’s allegation that Beijing was contemplating providing deadly assistance to Russian troops battling in Ukraine. China “has not provided weapons to either side of the conflict,” according to Qin Gang, the country’s foreign minister, this week.

Mr. Xi has placed a strong emphasis on reducing China’s dependence on innovations and knowledge held by the West and defending the nation against dangers to its food and energy security in order to reduce the country’s exterior weaknesses.

Mr. Xi still appears to be hoping for a revival of negotiations with Washington to ease hostilities. According to Ryan Hass, a senior associate at the Brookings Institution and former head for China at the National Security Council under President Obama, his extremely straightforward caution against American goals will also have an impact on the Chinese government system.

President Xi’s outward demonstration of his annoyance with Washington “will give other actors in China’s system permission to take a sharper public line against the United States,” Mr. Hass wrote in an email. But until the relationship discovers areas of shared interest, he continued, “it will remain defined by mutual enmity and grievance.” “I expect President Biden and Xi to speak again in the coming couple of months,” he said.

The 2,952 congress delegates, chosen for their party loyalty, stood to applaud Mr. Xi after they all voted to keep him in office. As the voting went on, Mr. Xi sat on the podium chit-chatting with his No. 2, the incoming Chinese premier, Li Qiang, who is expected to focus on growth. The congress in Beijing has been stage-managed to show support for Mr. Xi’s domestic and foreign policies.

In 2018, Mr. Xi engineered a constitutional amendment that eliminated the two-term restriction on the presidency; at the time, three parliamentary representatives chose to abstain, while two ventured to vote against the amendment.

Unemployment among urban youth increased to nearly 20% in the worst months of 2022, and economic development stalled to a lower-than-anticipated 3% last year as businesses and supply networks took the burden of Covid lockdowns and widespread quarantines.

Wang Xiangwei, a former senior editor of The South China Morning Post, a daily in Hong Kong, said, “I’m optimistic that as soon as the National People’s Congress is over and Li Qiang has fully taken over, then China will roll out measures to boost the confidence of the private sector.”

However, the private sector has been struck so hard that simple words to allay their worries are insufficient, according to Mr. Wang, who now publishes a journal on Chinese politics. “If you want to revive the Chinese economy, you have to rely on the private sector,” he said.

Beijing has been ordering companies to consult with Communist Party cells installed in their firms and ordering companies to transfer a small stake and a seat on the board to the government. Even as China tries to restore investor confidence, many of these practices have caused deep unease in the private business community in China. Mr. Xi and his top lieutenants have not yet offered specific responses.

Kou Chien-Wen, a professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei who studies in Chinese politics, said of China’s leaders: “Because they’re now facing what they take to be an insecure environment at home and abroad, they’re really taking steps to concentrate power, not to let go of it.”

State media highlighted Robin Zeng, the founder of CATL, a top manufacturer of batteries for electric cars that has given China a commanding lead in a core industry, in their reports of Mr. Xi’s meetings with businesspeople during the annual legislative session in an effort to highlight the party’s expectation that entrepreneurs serve its priorities in exchange for its support.

The reports claimed that Mr. Zeng and Mr. Xi discussed China’s reliance on foreign nations for strategic minerals, and that Mr. Zeng suggested China should do more to ensure access to such “upstream” resources that supply manufacturers with the raw materials. Mr. Xi again took the opportunity to warn of threats to China’s security.

According to the formal version of the discussion, Mr. Xi responded, “When they’re playing a zero-sum game with us, we need to leave ourselves a way out.” “Some of those who want to choke our throats really do want to start from upstream.”