New Straits Times
CHINA TO SCRAP TERM LIMITS
Legislators set to approve amendment to presidential terms
THOUSANDS of Chinese legislators erupted into enthusiastic applause yesterday over plans to give President Xi Jinping a lifetime mandate to mould the Asian giant into a global superpower.
China’s rubber-stamp Parliament met in the imposing Great Hall of the People for an annual session that will make Xi the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, concentrating the growing might of the military, economy and state in the hands of one man.
As Xi looked on from a stage dominated by mostly male party leaders in dark suits, a constitutional amendment to scrap the two-term limit for the presidency was read out to the chamber, prompting fervent applause.
The legislators are all, but certain, to approve the amendment on Sunday, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership sets the agenda for the National People’s Congress. (NPC)
The text says the change “will be conducive to safeguarding the authority and the unified leadership of the CCP Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, and to strengthening and perfecting the national leadership system”.
The amendment was presented after Premier Li Keqiang delivered a report, warning that the country is fighting “three critical battles” against financial risk, poverty and pollution.
The government set an economic growth target of around 6.5 per cent for this year, in line with expectations, but lower than the 6.9 per cent gross domestic product increase in last year.
It announced an 8.1 per cent increase for the defence budget to 1.11 trillion yuan (RM683.54 trillion) this year, giving the world’s largest armed forces a boost after spending growth slowed in the previous two years.
But the spotlight was squarely on the party’s most powerful leader in more than four decades. Lifting term limits would allow the 64-year-old leader to stay on as party chief, head of the military and president beyond 2023, when his second term is due to end.
Analysts have warned that the move carries risks as it ends a “collective” model of leadership that maintained stability after Mao’s chaotic reign from 1949 to his death in 1976.
NPC spokesman Zhang Yesui downplayed its significance, saying, on Sunday, it would merely align the presidency with the titles of Communist Party general secretary and Military Commission chairman, which do not have term limits.
Censors have worked furiously to stamp out dissenting voices on social media, blocking dozens of words from “disagree” to “emperor”.
The amendment says that opinions had been sought at the “grassroots level” and that “the masses, party members and cadres in many regions” had “unanimously called” for the revision of term limits.
The Parliament will also vote on constitutional amendments that will inscribe Xi’s name in the state constitution and create a new national anti-corruption agency.
Xi will get a second five-year term during the session. Remaining in power beyond 2023 gives him a chance to push through his vision of a rejuvenated China with global clout, a prosperous society and a powerful military.