Chinese President Xi Jinping began a second term in office on Monday, after the country's rubber-stamp parliament endorsed him in the job and approved his closest political ally Wang Qishan as vice president.
The approval of Xi and Wang as the highest-ranking Chinese leaders comes after the National People's Congress (NPC) nodded through constitutional changes that will enable b oth men to stay in post indefinitely, instead of stepping down in 2023. Four new vice premiers have also been announced after NPC approval.
Hong Kong political affairs commentator Cai Yongmei said all of the new appointees are proven Xi allies.
"First of all, the party rules in everything, and political power comes from the barrel of a gun," Cai said, in reference to a saying of late supreme leader Mao Zedong.
"Now that Xi Jinping has a hold on power, of course he will hire his own people. That's his entire hiring philosophy."
As Xi and Wang were sworn in, reports emerged that China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has published a "little red book" of Xi Jinping's sayings, echoing a practice last seen in the Mao era.
Titled The Thoughts of Chairman Xi, the book bears the imprint of the Grassroots Infantry Study Group Press, and was published by 204 Brigade Artillery Corps of the PLA's 16th Army in China's Northern Military District, under the auspices of the brigade political department.
Photos of the book seen online show a table of contents that includes Chairman Xi's sayings on topics like "the Chinese dream,""anti-corruption," and "criticism and self-criticism."
However, the full contents have yet to be made public. Media reports indicate that 204 Brigade Artillery Corps is a heavy artillery unit stationed in the northeastern province Jilin.
Nationwide loyalty pledge
A pro-democracy activist surnamed Ji said the book appears to be part of a nationwide drive to pledge political loyalty to Xi, as he consolidates his political power to control many different aspects of government.
"I have actually seen books of Xi Jinping Thought already, about three or four months ago, but they were banned as soon as they came out," Ji said. "If they don't ban this one, then it will show that this has been a deliberate act [on the part of the government]."
"Everyone knows that they can't have opposing opinions [to the government], and that their own position could be jeopardized, or at least negatively affected in various ways, if they voice them," he said.
"There are people all over China who are all too willing to curry favor with those in power, and it seems they've got a free pass now."
Political observer Wen Li said the book is yet another symptom of the nationwide deification of Xi that is under way in China.
"I know that they have copies of [Xi's book] On Governance in hotels in Nanjing, and in the foreign consulates there," Wen said. "They have been changed in translation and are being sent out everywhere."
"There is one which must be placed in every room of the Jinling Hotel in Nanjing, along with the directory of services," Wen said. "He wants to be just like Mao Zedong."
"This is all the doing of the propaganda machine, but I think that [Xi] is going along with it because he really feels it in his bones."
Support for indefinite rule
As well as Xi and Wang, the NPC approved four vice premiers: Xi's right-hand man Liu He as economic and financial czar; former Shanghai mayor Han Zheng; former Tianjin party boss Sun Chunlan, and former Guangdong party secretary Hu Chunhua.
Meanwhile, Yang Xiaodu will head up Xi's newly set-up State Supervisory Commission, which will take charge of the ongoing anti-corruption campaign that has seen many potential challengers to Xi's rule end up behind bars.
Hong Kong political analyst Camoes Tam said Wang's appointment as vice president will mean he oversees Yang's work as head of the new commission.
"I think that a lot of the responsibility for detaining officials and fighting corruption will migrate over to Wang Qishan in future," Tam said. "[Yang] was previously one of Wang's people, and Xi has brought his people out of the party system and placed them in the government system instead. But they're still in charge."
"[Wang] is still Xi Jinping's hit man. He will go after anyone who opposes him," he said. "These arrangements are in place so that Xi Jinping can rule indefinitely."
Reported by Wong Siu-san, Lau Siu-fung and Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service.Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.