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NEWS// China’s president could serve for life

NEWS// China’s president could serve for life

On February 25, China’s ruling Communist Party proposed legislation that would allow President Xi Jinping to govern for the rest of his life. The National People’s Congress will vote on the proposal later this month.

Term limit proposal

China’s state paper, the People’s Daily, explained, "This amendment does not mean changing the retirement system for party and national leaders, and does not mean a life-long term system for leading officials." 

The limit of two five-year terms was written into China’s constitution after Mao Zedong’s death (he died in 1976). His successor, Deng Xiaoping, pressed for that change because he recognized the dangers of one-man rule and the cult of personality. That constitutional change took effect in 1982. 

Reactions

  • Margaret Lewis, a professor of law and Chinese constitutional expert at Seton Hall University, commented, "Removing term limits does not mean that Xi will necessarily stay in for a third term, but it is hard to see who would have the audacity to challenge Xi should he decide to stay on for a third term." 
  • In an interview with Bloomberg Markets: Balance of Power on February 27, Kevin Rudd, the President of the Asia Society Policy Institute, said that though the term-limit change was not a surprise to veteran China watchers, it was critical nevertheless. "It's now become clear, he's probably China's most powerful leader since Mao.... This entrenches it formally. It's a big step. It's big news within China itself."
  • "Xi Jinping has finally achieved his ultimate goal when he first embarked on Chinese politics -- that is to be the Mao Zedong of the 21st century," said Willy Lam, a political analyst at the Chinese University in Hong Kong.  
  • One anonymous source told Reuters that the changes were pushed through by Xi. The person claimed, “The manner in which Xi is forcing through the changes is drastic, it was not consensus-based.  It was forceful and may offend many people, not just liberals.”

China's response

China’s response to concerns about the change in term limits came in an editorial in the Global Times (a state-run media website) on February 28. “Such hysteria by some people in the West will subtly influence the way their countries interact with China. It will increase the risks Beijing faces while emerging, and complicate communication between Chinese society and the outside world.” 

Sources: CNN, Global News, Asia Society, Bloomberg News, CBS News.