Xi Jinping: 10 key developments during a decade in power

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, Sunday, March 12, 2023.
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, Sunday, March 12, 2023. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Renate Birk
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As China's leader enters a third term as President, Euronews reflects on his tenure as the head of the Communist Party

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After 10 years at the helm, Xi Jinping has amassed more power than almost any of his predecessors. In addition to being President of the People's Republic of China and the General Secretary of the country's Communist Party, Xi is also the army chief and supreme commander of the Chinese troops.

Classified as a technocrat, when he first became president on March 14, 2013, his power base was deemed fragile. But over the last decade, Xi has emerged as a nationalist with hard-leaning policies and has steadily expanded his power.

Here are ten memorable developments from the past ten years.

Presidential term limit abolished

On March 11, 2018, the National People's Congress decided to abolish the presidential term limit introduced in the 1980s, thereby allowing Xi Jinping to serve in office beyond 2023. 

On October 23, 2022, the new Communist Party Central Committee voted for a third term for Xi Jinping at its first plenary session. 

And, just last week, he was handed that unprecedented third term in power following a ceremonial vote in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

Extension of powers

On March 17 2018, Xi Jinping was once more confirmed as president and military chief.

In the same year, he was voted the most powerful person in the world by Forbes magazine.

At the 6th Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee in November 2021, a resolution was prepared for the 20th Party Congress next year to allow Jinping a third term as CPC general secretary.

He was put on par with Mao and Deng Xiaoping by the Central Committee.

Zero COVID policy

At the end of 2019, a previously unknown type of coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China. It spread and became the pandemic known as COVID-19. 

In the three years that followed, vaccination programmes opened up and governments began to relax strict lockdown rules. But despite ongoing damage to the economy and alleged internal criticism, Xi continued to adamantly enforce his “zero COVID” policy.

After unprecedented protests in China, this policy was relaxed at the end of 2022.

AP Photo
A couple wear face masks as they ride an electric scooter in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.AP Photo

Censorship and surveillance

In China, under Xi, surveillance and censorship have increased, as has nationalist propaganda. Xi repeatedly speaks of "major changes that only occur every hundred years" and there is talk of a "Chinese resurgence," which of course also includes what Beijing sees as the "reunification" with Taiwan.

Mass surveillance was greatly expanded in China under Xi Jinping. First, general security concerns formed the basis for installing camera surveillance in public spaces.

Due to the continued development of technical face recognition, this field of application has expanded to include the location and behaviour of identifiable individuals.

Belt and Road Initiative

In 2014, Xi explained the concept of the New Silk Road, renamed the Belt and Road Initiative and Chinese state-owned companies became active abroad. 

Infrastructure projects aiming to kill two birds with one stone created new sales markets and tied the – often autocratic – governments of the target countries closer to them. 

Since then, the province of Xinjiang, inhabited by the Muslim Uyghurs, plays a key role in westward migration, and harrowing reports of brutal suppression of the minority group began to emerge at around this time.

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AP Photo
FILE - Demonstrators supporting Tibetans, Uyghurs and Hong Kongers take part in a protest against the CCP to coincide with China's 72nd National Day.AP Photo

Western dependency deepens

The West's dependency on China regarding the energy transition is evident, around 80% of all solar panels worldwide are manufactured in China. Around 50% of the polysilicon, which is important for photovoltaics, comes from four large plants in the troubled province of Xinjiang. 

A lot of energy is required to produce solar cells – and that comes from coal-fired power plants. Half of all coal-fired power plants under construction globally are in China.

Taiwan

During his tenure as governor of Fujian, Xi still worked to incentivize Taiwanese entrepreneurs to invest in China. At the time, he was banking on an opening to the market economy. 

Also, China under Xi had initially taken a more critical stance towards North Korea, while relations with South Korea were improving. In the meantime, however, he is openly threatening the annexation of Taiwan and has intensified military threats in the region.

Russia

In the wake of the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, however, relations with Russia grew stronger. Xi Jinping and Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, share common positions towards “the West” in many respects. 

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In July 2017, Putin awarded Xi the Order of Saint Andrew, Russia's highest decoration. The medal was presented in the Kremlin on 4 July.

Tibet

10 years of Xi Jinping were 10 lost years for Tibet and China, according to the International Campaign for Tibet ( ICT).

The conclusion of ICT's managing director, Kai Müller, is clear: "Under Xi Jinping, Tibet was transformed into a totalitarian police state that serves as a testing ground for repressive measures. The Communist Party is trying to connect the Tibetans to their language, their way of life, their Buddhist culture and their spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama."

Repression of dissent

Human rights activists fear repression will intensify in China during Xi's third term. The US-based organization Human Rights Watch warned that the continuation of Xi Jinping's rule does not bode well for human rights in China and the world.

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