China: Reform Positions Xi to be 'President For Life'

Isaac Cain
March 12, 2018

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.

The National People's Congress has never voted against the Communist Party. Social media users have taken to using the cartoon character to represent Mr Xi.

Instead, he consolidated his political power as the party voted to enshrine his name and political ideology in the party's constitution - elevating his status to the level of its founder, Mao Zedong.

The removal of the term limit was regarded as the biggest political change in the one-party system which has remained in force in China since 1949.

One government critic wrote an open letter describing the proposal as a "farce", in a rare show of public dissent.

Since the amendment to scrap presidential term limits also applies to the vice presidency, many analysts see growing signs of the hitherto ceremonial position going to one of Xi's most trusted lieutenants. I argued in many of my writings ever since that the possibility of Xi serving a third term from 2022 to 2027 could well be conceivable, with loyalists and fence sitters hedging their bets.

China on Sunday abolished term limits on the presidency, opening a path for President Xi Jinping to rule the country as he pleases for decades to come, absent some unforeseen blow to his substantial political support.

"We've not got around to discussing that yet", Chen Yunying, a senior defector from self-ruled Taiwan who is married to Justin Yifu Lin, the World Bank's former chief economist.

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But the vote sparked some negative comments on Twitter-like Weibo, with one user defying censors to write "we're over" while another said "we are back in the Qing Dynasty", referring to China's last imperial era.

Chinese state media have played down the abolition of term limits.

"As for the assumptions, conjecture and stretched situations in your question, I think that does not exist", Shen Chunyao said, according to Reuters. Days after Communist Party of China proposed this change, United States ' President Donald Trump in an event had said that we should also give it a try.

In another victory for Jinping, the draft amendments to the Constitution would add his trademark expression for his main ideas - "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" - into the preamble of the Constitution. "When Xi Jinping is getting older, there would be infighting to be the heir-apparent".

At the same time, he gained a measure of popularity among Chinese people through a relentless crackdown on corruption that has punished more than a million party officials, and sidelined potential rivals.

In a news conference after the amendment was approved, a government spokesperson said that concerns about a power struggle like that seen during China's Cultural Revolution were "invalid", in response to questioning by a foreign reporter.

Even though his father Xi Zhongxun - a renowned revolutionary hero turned vice premier - was purged by Mao, Xi has remained true to the party that rules with an iron fist and over which he reigns supreme.

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