China Removes Presidential Term Limits, Enabling Xi Jinping To Rule Indefinitely

Framed portraits of German philosopher Karl Marx Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin and China’s late leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping hang above a screen showing President Xi Jinping

The amendment - announced by the Communist Party two weeks ago - removes the only barrier keeping Xi, 64, from staying on after his expected second term ends in 2023.

In another major constitutional change approved Sunday, a national anti-corruption agency, called the National Supervision Commission, was approved. Of the 2,964 delegates, only two voted against the measure, three abstained and another ballot paper was deemed invalid.

"The constitutional amendment item has passed", the announcer declared to polite applause. This move reflects a similar revision of the CPC Constitution adopted at the CPC's 19 National Congress in October of past year (China Brief, November 10, 2017), and makes Xi Jinping only the third Chinese leader mentioned by name in the PRC Constitution-"Mao Zedong Thought" and "Deng Xiaoping Theory" are also similarly honored.

Speaking later to reporters, Shen Chunyao, chairman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC standing committee, dismissed concerns the move could risk a return to strongman rule or lead to political turmoil or infighting. The body has never rejected a party proposal and recent amendments - including a 1999 change adding Deng's name to the governing document - passed with more than 98 per cent of the vote.

"In the almost 40 years of reform and opening up, we have successfully established, upheld and expanded the political development road of socialism with Chinese characteristics", Shen said.

"We believe in the future that we will continue with this path and discover an even brighter future", Shen said.

Although this form of one-man domination differs from that of Mao Zedong in important ways, it is little wonder that well informed observers have been quick to draw the historical parallel between the two men.

But the government quickly mounted a propaganda push, blocking some articles and publishing pieces praising the party.

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China's National People's Congress (NPC), the national legislature, enshrined Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era in the country's Constitution on Sunday, codifying its guiding role.

"Protecting the country's long-term stability is an extremely good thing", Cheng Bingqiang from Sichuan province told Reuters shortly ahead of the vote, when asked if he anxious about Xi being in office forever.

This is perhaps a conciliatory sop to the former president and his political allies, who have seen their power severely curtailed under Xi (China Brief, May 11, 2016). China has become one of the most important countries in the world mainly because of its increasing economic relations with the world.

However the question was too sensitive for several legislators, who scurried away when asked about Xi being in office forever. "I congratulate everyone who participated in this progress", he said.

"He wants to prevent power from falling into the hands of technocrats like Jiang (Zemin) and Hu (Jintao)", Wu said, referring to Xi's two predecessors. I was discussing with my friends and we were enraged.

Earlier this year, the party took control of China's paramilitary force, a move analysts said could have arisen from anxiety over the potential use of the police to stage a coup.

He has also carried out a crackdown on lawyers and tolerance for dissenting and different views has tightened, even as more Chinese travel overseas and experience other cultures and different political systems.

In a story Independent Media published previously, a professor of worldwide relations at Renmin University of China, Wang Yiwei, said the amendments were vital for China's economic growth, as a longer term of office for the president would boost investor confidence and guarantee economic stability.

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