Chinese President Xi Jinping is all set for an unprecedented third five-year term as he was elected to the powerful Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party on Saturday while several top leaders including Premier Li Keqiang have been left out in the major shake-up at the top.
The once-in-a-five-year Congress concluded its week-long session by electing 205 regular Central Committee members and 171 alternate members.
Xi, 69, was elected to the Central Committee, which will meet on Sunday to elect a 25-member Political Bureau which in turn will choose seven or more members to the Standing Committee to govern the country.
The Standing Committee in turn will elect the General Secretary, who heads the party and the country.
With his election to the Central Committee, Xi is on course to become the General Secretary, observers here said.
As he is all set for a record third term and perhaps for life, Xi has further consolidated his power with many of his own associates making it to the Central Committee.
Several names, especially that of Premier Li, 67; National People's Congress chairman Li Zhanshu, 72; Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference chairman Wang Yang, 67; and Vice-Premier Han Zheng, 68, were conspicuously missing from the Central Committee list.
They are all part of the outgoing seven-member Standing Committee headed by Xi.
Both Li and Wang are regarded as moderates. Li, who steered the Chinese economy for the past ten years, has already announced his decision to quit as Premier though he is one year short of the official retirement age of 68 set by the party.
Among the other notables, Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi was elected to the Central Committee while former foreign minister Yang Jiechi was dropped.
After the election of the Standing Committee on Sunday, Xi along with the new team is due to appear before the media who are kept in a closed loop COVID quarantine in a hotel here.
Xi, who is completing a 10-year tenure this year, will be the first Chinese leader after party founder Mao Zedong to continue in power, ending three decades of the rule followed by his predecessors to retire after two five-year tenures.
Observers say the new tenure will put him on course to continue in power for life like Mao.
The Congrees during its closing session also passed several key resolutions, including an amendment to its Constitution to grant more powers to Xi.
Ahead of the 20th Congress, Beijing witnessed rare public protests with banners hung on overpasses of major thoroughfares, protesting against Xi's unpopular zero-COVID policy and authoritarian rule.
Banners displayed on a bridge in the district of Haidian, home to universities and tech firms in Beijing, had slogans: food, not COVID test; reform, not a cultural revolution; freedom, not lockdowns; votes, not a leader; dignity, not lies; citizens, not slaves.
Battery-operated loudspeakers were hung in some places blaring anti-Xi and anti-Zero COVID slogans.
Police quickly moved to remove the banners and loudspeakers. Similar reports of protests came from different cities of China.
After the appearance of the banners, security was further tightened in Beijing with the deployment of police on most of the city's bridges and underpasses.