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What to expect from Xi Jinping’s next five years as Chinese president

Xi Jinping has sealed a historic third term as China’s president, becoming the country’s most powerful leader in generations.

The appointment by China’s parliament comes after Xi locked in another five years as head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the military in October.

His coronation sets him up to become communist China’s longest-serving president. 

Adrian Geiges, co-author of “Xi Jinping: The Most Powerful Man in the World”, told the AFP news agency he did not think Xi was motivated by a desire for personal enrichment.

“That’s not his interest,” Geiges said. “He really has a vision about China, he wants to see China as the most powerful country in the world.”

Here is a look what are the key challenges facing the country and how he is expected to handle them:

Slowing economy

China’s slowing economy will likely dominate Xi’s next five years but his decision to pack the Communist Party’s top leadership with loyalists has stoked concerns about him prioritising ideology at the expense of growth.

The world’s second-largest economy expanded just three percent last year, widely missing its target of around 5.5 percent in the face of strict Covid curbs and a simmering property crisis.

Beijing has set a growth target of “around five percent” for 2023, one of the lowest in decades.

And Xi’s picks for top government jobs suggest the days of liberal reformers steering the economy have ended, while his track record of propping up the heavy industry and cracking down on big tech suggests a more state-led approach is here to stay.

While he has thrown his weight behind developing a more consumption-driven economy – a policy known as “dual circulation” – his calls for addressing China’s wealth gap have gone quiet in recent months.

With the United States promising to prioritise maintaining “an enduring competitive edge” against China as they battle for dominance over technology, Beijing may find itself under growing pressure internationally.

READ MORE: China’s Q1 growth exceeds expectations, but pandemic challenge remains

Tensions with the US

Relations between Beijing and Washington have been on a steady decline in recent years, with the two sides butting heads over a number of issues including trade, human rights and the origins of Covid-19.

A planned visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month was cancelled at the last minute after the United States shot down a Chinese balloon it said was conducting surveillance over US territory – a claim strenuously denied by Beijing.

Foreign Minister Qin Gang this week warned of “conflict and confrontation” with potentially “catastrophic consequences” if Washington does not change tack.

Xi himself also made a rare direct rebuke of Washington this week, accusing “Western countries led by the United States” of trying to thwart China’s rise.

The countries in question “have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented severe challenges to our country’s development”, Xi said, according to state news agency Xinhua.

READ MORE: US blacklists China’s major chipmakers in latest crackdown

Taiwan threats

China’s tensions with Taiwan have become more pronounced in recent years.

An emboldened Xi could decide when to fulfil Beijing’s longstanding ambition of seizing the self-ruled island.

A visit to Taiwan by the then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last year prompted a furious Beijing to hold its most extensive military drills around the island in years.

The Communist Party for the first time enshrined its opposition to Taiwanese independence in its constitution in October.

Any move to invade Taiwan would wreak havoc with global supply chains given the island is a major supplier of semiconductors – an essential component of nearly all modern electronics.

It would also bring Beijing and Washington closer than ever to direct military confrontation.

China on Sunday said its military budget would rise at the fastest rate for four years, as outgoing Premier Li Keqiang warned of “escalating” threats from abroad.

US announces $95 million sale of missile defence support to Taiwan

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