China votes to make Xi Jinping ruler for life
Near unanimous vote clears the way to end presidential term limits
China’s Communist Party has voted through changes to its constitution abolishing presidential term limits, opening up the possibility Xi Jinping could rule for life.
The controversial measures, first announced last month, were passed by the National People’s Congress. They included amendments which add a political philosophy called, called Xi Jinping Thought, to the constitution and the creation of politically driven “supervisory commissions”, which has been given the task of investigating party members – all aimed to shore up Xi’s supremacy.
Of the 2,964 delegates only two voted against abolishing term limits, with three abstentions, “a small hint of the outrage the move has caused in some liberal circles”, says The Guardian.
There have also been rumblings of dissent outside the upper echelons of the party. Online censors have been blocking discussion of the topic, including images of Winnie the Pooh, after social media users began using the cartoon character to represent Xi.
“It is now hard to see Xi Jinping being challenged in any way whatsoever. He has amassed power the likes of which has not been seen since Chairman Mao Zedong,” says the BBC’s China correspondent Stephen McDonell.
Xi is widely regarded as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao, yet critics see worrying parallels with the former communist dictator.
Term limits were first introduced in 1982 to prevent a repeat of the horrors of the Mao era – and opponents call the decision to scrap them “a calamity that risks plunging China into a new age of political turbulence and one-man dictatorship”, reports the Guardian.
Axios contributor Bill Bishop says: “Xi is working to obliterate any boundaries between party and state and to reinsert the Communist Party of China (CPC) into all aspects of China's economy and society — all while ensuring he's the unchallenged embodiment of the CPC.”
“The end result will be Xi's complete dominion over all parts of Chinese government and society,” he adds.
But some critics say the move is could also make Xi “politically vulnerable in the long run”, reports CNN.
Li Datong, a former editor of the state-run China Youth Daily newspaper and one of the few voices of open opposition told the broadcaster: “The top leader’s term limits are the biggest common denominator shared by all political forces in China. Its removal could trigger political infighting - that’s why this move is dangerous.”