When China’s leader, Xi Jinping, led six dark-suited men onto a bright red stage Sunday, the scale of his victory became clear as one by one he introduced the country’s new ruling inner circle. Each was an acolyte of Xi, making his grip over China’s future tighter than ever.

Xi’s groundbreaking third term as leader, following a weeklong Communist Party congress, was entirely expected. But even seasoned observers who thought that they had taken the full measure of Xi have been astonished by how thoroughly he shook up the party’s top tiers.

"He was dominant already and is even more dominant now,” said Dali Yang, a professor at the University of Chicago who researches Chinese politics. "He owns it.”