New Straits Times
China downplays move to lift presidential term limits
BEIJING: China sought yesterday to downplay the Communist Party’s move to scrap presidential term limits, a decision that could pave the way for Xi Jinping to remain president for life.
The National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s rubberstamp Parliament, will vote on March 11 on constitutional amendments, which include the scrapping of a rule limiting the top leader to two five-year terms.
NPC spokesman Zhang Yesui said the move would merely align the presidency with the titles of Communist Party general secretary and Military Commission chairman, which did not have term limits.
“It is conducive to uphold the authority of the Central Committee of the party with comrade Xi Jinping at the core and also to unify leadership,” Zhang said on the eve of the opening of the NPC’s annual session.
Zhang revealed that the party’s Central Committee proposed the constitutional amendments, which include adding Xi’s eponymous political guidelines to the country’s charter, in January.
But, the decision was first made public on Feb 25 in a report by the official Xinhua news agency.
The announcement sparked a rare bout of public criticism, prompting censors to work furiously to stamp out dissenting posts on social media.
Xi has consolidated power since taking office as party chief in 2012, but the move to lift presidential term limits surprised even the most experienced China watchers.
China’s late paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, championed a system of “collective” leadership to prevent a return of the chaotic years under Mao Zedong’s oneman rule from 1949 to his death in 1976.
The presidential term limits were engraved in the state constitution in 1982.
“The constitution must adapt to the changing circumstances, include new experiences, reflect new achievements and lay out new guidelines to remain relevant,” Zhang said.
“Revising the constitution is a big event in the country’s political life and it is also a major legislative activity that will have wide-ranging implications.”