Xi Jinping has been awarded an unprecedented third term as president, capping a surge that has seen him become China’s most powerful leader in generations.

The appointment of China’s Stamp Parliament comes after he was handed over another five years as head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the military – the two more significant leadership positions in Chinese politics – in October.

Since then, 69-year-old Xi has faced challenges, including mass protests against him zero covid policy and its subsequent abandonment which saw countless people die.

Those questions have been avoided at this week’s National People’s Congress (NPC), a carefully choreographed event that will also appoint Xi’s ally Li Qiang as the new prime minister.

Lawmakers have instead focused on a sweeping overhaul of Beijing’s science ministry and technology capabilities in the face of what one NPC deputy described as foreign attempts to “contain and suppress” the country’s rise.

Beijing also presented during the parliamentary session a growth target of “around 5%” – one of the lowest in decades – as well as a modest increase in defense spending.

Xi’s re-election is the culmination of a remarkable rise from a relatively little-known party apparatus to leader of a global superpower.

For decades China – scarred by founding leader Mao Zedong’s dictatorial rule and cult of personality – has eschewed one-man rule in favor of more consensus-based, but still autocratic, leadership.

That model imposed term limits on the largely ceremonial role of the presidency, with Xi’s predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao relinquishing power after 10 years in office.

Xi has torn up that rulebook and abolished term limits in 2018.

His coronation this week makes him modern China’s longest-serving head of state, and will mean Xi will rule well into his seventies and – if no challenger emerges – even longer.

But the start of his unprecedented third term as China’s leader comes as the world’s second-largest economy faces major headwinds, from slowing growth and a troubled property sector to a falling birth rate.

Relations with the US are also at a low not seen in decades, with the powers sparring over everything from human rights to trade and technology.

In a speech to delegates at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which is running alongside the NPC this week, Xi criticized Washington’s “containment, encirclement and oppression of China”.

China, he said, must “have the courage to fight as it faces profound and complex changes in both the domestic and international landscape”.