Xi set for second term with enhanced power
China's President Xi Jinping will get a second five-year term on Saturday, with his right-hand man tipped to become vice president to help him consolidate power and handle US trade threats.
Xi's reappointment by the Communist Party-controlled legislature is a foregone conclusion, but all eyes will be on whether his former anti-corruption enforcer, Wang Qishan, will become his deputy, as expected by analysts.
The National People's Congress has widely expanded 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.
As part of the package of constitutional amendments, the president and other government officials will for the first time take the oath of office by pledging allegiance to the constitution.
Elevating Wang would allow 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.
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.
Known internationally in his previous role as China's pointman on trade, analysts say Wang could help Xi handle increasingly tense relations with the United States amid fears of a looming trade war.
Wang was at the frontline of Xi's anti-corruption crusade, heading the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which punished 1.5 million officials in the past five years, from low-level cadres to regional leaders and generals.
Xi's most important title is general secretary of the Communist Party, but by putting a retired party loyalist in the vice presidency, he would again be breaking with party norms and unwritten rules of succession.
- 'Dream team' -
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 would replace Li Yuanchao, a relatively low-profile politician who has represented Xi on trips abroad.
When he was vice premier, Wang periodically travelled to the United States, where president Barack Obama once gave the Chinese delegation a signed basketball that the official held up at a press conference.
An "amazing" economist, Wang could now form a "dream team" with another member of the party leadership, Wang Yang, to deal with US President Donald Trump's trade threats, said Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at King's College London.
"Maybe they'll be able to come up with a solution for this massive brewing storm with America about imbalances and tariffs," Brown told AFP.
© 2018 AFP