March 24, 2018

Main » China's two-term presidential limit to be scrapped after vote

China's two-term presidential limit to be scrapped after vote

12 March 2018

Out of 2,964 ballots by the National People's Congress, just two delegates voted against the move and three abstained in the biggest change to the constitution in 36 years.

The move allows the 64-year-old Xi to remain in power for as long as he wishes, ruling as a virtual emperor, and is the latest feather in the cap of a Communist "princeling" who is re-making China in his own image.

The room erupted into loud applause when the result of the vote was passed, though Xi did not address parliament. Because of this, he is considered to be the most powerful leader after China's revolutionary founder Mao Zedong.

As well as the vote abolishing term limits, the parliament also backed other constitutional amendments including the insertion of Mr Xi's political theory - Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era - into the constitution and the establishment of a legal framework for a powerful new anti-corruption department.

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

The vote sets up a path that current president Xi Jinping could navigate to rule indefinitely.

He Guangliang from the southwestern province of Guizhou said it wasn't fair to draw comparisons with North Korea. Should China face economic turmoil during his protracted rule, the president could be tempted to resort to Putin's so-far-successful strategy of leveraging on the country's nationalist sentiment, producing a "rally-around-the-flag effect".

"You can't ask me that", said one lady, laughing nervously and declining to give her name. Xi is likely to promote Wang Qishan, the former anti-corruption czar, to the rank of vice-president later this week. China had previously imposed a two-term limit on its president in the 1990s.

But the official line aside, the removal of term limits is highly significant, dismantling one of the most effective checks on power in a country where citizens do not have the right to vote.

Following the Communists' high-stakes party congress last October, Xi began to be referred to in government meetings and state media as "Lingxiu", a reverential terms with spiritual connotations.

The move has crushed faint hopes for political reforms among China's embattled liberal scholars and activists, who now fear even greater repression. "The term limit-while only applying to the lesser role of the state presidency-has also come to shape expectations for the timing of transitions in the leadership of the party and military".

The state-run newspaper, an global mouthpiece for Beijing, claimed, contrary to the assessment of most independent observers, that the scrapping of term limits did not "imply lifetime tenure for any leader". The amendments' passage required two thirds of the vote.

China's two-term presidential limit to be scrapped after vote