Chinese President Mostly Arranges To Rule For Life

In what was primarily ceremonial, China's National People's Congress gave the green light to scrap presidential term limits.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was voted by delegates to be in total control of the nation as long as he wants.
Mark Schiefelbein / AP Images

In what was primarily ceremonial, China's National People's Congress gave the green light to scrap presidential term limits.

China’s National People’s Congress on Sunday gave the nod to a design to end presidential term limits, opening the door for President Xi Jinping to remain in his position without end, and assuring a major change to politics in China.

On the west side of Tiananmen Square, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, 2,964 representatives voted, with 2,958 wanting to amend their constitution, two opposing, with three refrains and one null vote, the Washington Post reported.

The mostly figurative ballots were cast two weeks after an announcement by the Communist Party-run media proclaimed the vote. Other plans were to connect Xi and the party to everything having to do with living in China, according to the Post.

It marks the most-obvious proof to this point that Xi wants to have full power past the conclusion in 2023 of the second term he’s currently serving. It would mean that China would return to the period of time of totalitarian rule by just one person — and China is increasing its clout in global politics, the Post reported.

“It means that Xi is now unquestionably a Leninist strongman,” said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at SOAS University of London. Unlike the ruler before him, Xi is “lord and master of them all,” according to the Post.

Though the state-run media claimed the alterations to the constitution had “won the hearts of the people,” the news sparked a flurry of concern that wasn’t private about a resurfacing of dictatorial politics, the Post reported.

“It’s a historic retrogression,” stated Li Datong, a past editor of the state newspaper, China Youth Daily.

“Throughout history, only Chinese emperors and Mao Zedong had lifelong tenure until their deaths,” Li said. “And what came out of that was a disaster for the society and many painful lessons.”

Xi Jinping is portrayed by Chinese state media as just as important a government head as the late Mao Zedong, who has been cast as supremely critical.
  Andy Wong / AP Images

The administrative change signals a conclusion to a structure created by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s to stop the seizing of power by another Mao, who led the Communist Party prior to when it started ruling in 1949 until his death in 1976, according to the Post.

“If the constitution of one nation can be amended by the most powerful person according to his or her will, the constitution is not a real constitution,” stated He Weifang, a Peking University law professor. “The legacy of Deng Xiaoping’s efforts to avoid lifelong presidency have been abolished completely.”

The seizing of power has drawn Xi analogies to government heads like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but his plan for China is unique, and should influence countries far from his own, the Post reported.

Starting with his rise to power in 2012, Xi has shifted with haste to obtain authority for himself domestically, while promoting an increasingly greater plan for China’s standing globally. Last year at a Communist Party congress, his main idea — “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” — was put with sacred view into China’s constitution. He began his second five-year term with no obvious replacement, according to the Post.

Since then, media from the party has increased the study of people it finds important, portraying Xi as the country’s father and the man who must be in command. However, it’s unsure what Xi’s despot image means for the governed, the Post reported.

Xi has constructed his administration on a straightforward pledge to “rejuvenate” China and place the nation back in the center of the global scene. It’s time for him to pull through, experts told the Post.

“Everyone expects that this will make Xi Jinping a stronger, more decisive leader, but it’s also possible that he will need to justify this change by maintaining his popularity,” stated Mary Gallagher, director of the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan.