World

Aside from the business at hand, events in China’s Great Hall of the People really are an impressive spectacle.

Everything is performed to perfection, from the synchronised tea pouring to the delegates clapping and even page-turning in unison.

The National People’s Congress (NPC) is an annual event that theoretically decides policy and occasionally makes changes to the constitution.

But amid the show and ceremony, this year has largely been about the continued entrenching of the power of one man, President Xi Jinping.

During this session, he has been confirmed to a precedent-busting third term as president having previously done away with the traditional two-term limit.

He has also succeeded in confirming a cabinet of staunch allies, most notably Li Qiang, the new second in command, a former protege and architect of the brutal and destructive Shanghai lockdown.

Gone are almost all the voices seen as holding marginally different views or approaches.

And it is his agenda that has been pushed throughout.

Changes, for instance, that continue efforts to shift power away from professional “civil servants” and increasingly into the hands of Communist Party cadres and Xi loyalists.

Read more:
China’s military must become ‘Great Wall of Steel’, President Xi Jinping says

But perhaps one of the most enduring themes of this year’s NPC has been China’s resolve amid an increasingly tense standoff with the West and America in particular.

Earlier in the week Xi, with uncharacteristic bluntness, spoke of the West’s “all-around containment, encirclement and suppression of China”.

At the closing ceremony, he described how the Army needs to be a “Great Wall of Steel” against these forces. And the new foreign secretary made it clear that unless America “hits the brakes” on its provocation “conflict and confrontation” will follow.

Be in no doubt the ramping up of rhetoric is deliberate and part of Xi’s increasingly assertive vision for China on the world stage.

There is a sense that the drawing of battle lines is accelerating, and it’s increasingly hard to see how either side can back down.

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