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.”

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