BEIJING: China’s 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.
China’s parliament chose former top graft-buster Wang Qishan, a key ally of President Xi Jinping, as vice president on Saturday, a widely expected move that nonetheless breaks with convention and underlines Xi’s dominant authority.
Xi was also re-elected president by parliament, with no votes cast against him. The body is packed with party loyalists and there was no chance he would not win the vote.
Wang bowed twice and then walked over to Xi to shake his hand after the vote was announced inside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Only one person voted against Wang out of the 2,970 votes cast.
Xi and Wang spoke only to pledge allegiance to the constitution, with Wang giving the podium an emphatic tap after he finished.
Known as “the firefighter” for his central role in tackling issues like corruption and domestic financial problems over the years, Wang also has experience dealing with the United States in his former role as a vice premier who led annual economic talks with Washington.
Xi’s real power stems from his title as general secretary of the Communist Party, but analysts say Wang could provide extra heft to his presidency, even though the vice president has largely been a ceremonial post in the past.
Xi is keeping Wang by his side because of his “talent and ability,” according to Hua Po, an independent Chinese political commentator.
“Choosing Wang as vice president is certainly to consolidate his power,” Hua told AFP. “Xi is already a very powerful man. The problem is that he has too few people who are loyal and competent for his use, so he has to retain Wang and give himself more time to cultivate more talented people.”
Wang replaces Li Yuanchao, a relatively low-profile politician who has represented Xi on trips abroad.