In a historic if not controversial vote, lawmakers in the National People’s Congress (NPC) approved a measure on Sunday eliminating term limits for the Chinese presidency.
A measure among dozens approved by the NPC on Sunday, of the 2,964 ballots cast, only two deputies to the legislature voted against the bill. Another three deputies abstained from voting.
Although changes to China’s constitution require two-thirds approval from the NPC, the legislative body is largely viewed as a rubber-stamp device which has earned a reputation for never refusing party proposals.
Widely viewed as centralizing power and a crackdown on dissent and the highest levels of the Chinese power structure, President Xi Jinping sought to assure party members and Chinese citizens the abolition of term limits was the “common will of the party and the people.”
Defending the constitutional changes in a lengthy editorial, The Chinese Communist Party’s (CPP) newspaper, The People’s Daily, wrote the repeal of presidential term limits was an important measure to perfecting the Chinese system and state.
Specifically citing the failure of fluidity at the top the Soviet Union’s leadership, the paper continued:
“Judging from the historical process of upholding and perfecting the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, the process of China’s reform is the process of realizing the self-improvement of the socialist system and constantly advancing the modernization of the national governance system and governance capacity.”
“The party leads the people in formulating the constitution and laws, the party leads the people in the implementation of the constitution and the law, the party leads the people in defending the dignity of the constitution and the law, and at the same time, the constitution must also provide strong legal protection for adhering to the leadership of the party.”
“This tragedy warns us that if we shake the leadership of the party in violation of the basic principles of scientific socialism, we will make subversive mistakes. The leadership of the party can only be strengthened and cannot be weakened. No matter how the constitution is amended, the party’s leadership cannot be changed.”
Despite the logic laid out by CPP, Beijing scholar and commentator Zhang Lifan said the move “marks the biggest regression in China’s legal system since the reform and opening-up era of the 1980s.”
Others in China, however, see some positive outcomes for totalitarian reform as President Xi seemingly enjoys support among the Chinese people due to his nationalist policies and anti-corruption campaign.
Due to term limits, Xi, who has ruled over China as president since 2013, had been obligated to relinquish power in 2023.
In addition to serving as president, Xi has held the position of Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party since 2012. Xi also chairs the Central Military Commission, a position which gives him complete command over the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Xi Zhongxun, Xi’s father, was also a leading Chinese communist who held several key positions under Chairman Mao, including its chief of propaganda.
[RT] [AP] [Photo courtesy FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images via Fortune]