March 18, 2018 / 1:21 AM / a year ago

China propaganda kicks into overdrive as 'helmsman' Xi re-anointed president

BEIJING (Reuters) - With pictures of ecstatic citizens standing in applause, happily tearful legislators and even a social media game, China’s propaganda drive has kicked into high gear following Xi Jinping’s unanimous reappointment as president.

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledges an oath to the Constitution after being confirmed president for another term during the fifth plenary session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 17, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Xi’s face dominated the front pages of major Sunday newspapers, many carrying the same editorial from the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily using language once more associated with Mao Zedong to say he was a “leader loved and respected by the people” and “helmsman of the country”.

“The voyage of a great country cannot do without a helmsman,” the paper wrote.

The military’s official People’s Liberation Army Daily pledged its loyalty to Xi in its editorial, saying his election would ensure the country’s long-term peace and stability. Xi is also head of the armed forces, the world’s largest.

There was never any doubt that the largely rubber-stamp parliament would not have re-elected Xi as president on Saturday, especially following a constitutional amendment a week earlier which lifts presidential term limits, meaning Xi can stay on indefinitely.

While the amendment was passed with just six dissenters - two no votes, three abstentions and one invalidated ballot - none of the roughly 3,000 legislators voted against Xi, a point made repeatedly in state media coverage.

State television showed images from the floor in the Great Hall of the People of some legislators in tears after Xi swore an oath to the constitution following his re-election, a vote it described as a “solemn and sacred historic moment”.

In a moment of high political theatre, a copy of the constitution was carried onto the main stage by three members of the armed forces.

Other pictures on state media showed ordinary people standing in applause in front of television screens around the country at Xi’s re-appointment.

The government has presented this month’s parliament session and its controversial removal of presidential term limits as widely welcomed despite criticism that has evaded the censors and seeped onto Chinese social media at times.

Social media accounts of state media have leapt into action to offer their support, even as the comments sections have either been disabled or only show supportive remarks from users.

Late on Saturday, the People’s Daily WeChat account went live with a game where players have 20 seconds to press the screen as many times as they can to register a “like” for all the government’s achievements of the past five years, Xi’s first term in office.

The top-rated comment on Sunday morning was one user proudly saying he had pressed “like” 181 times.

“Press like for Uncle Xi!” wrote another user, using a popular term of endearment for Xi.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie

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