China's parliament gives Xi Jinping the mandate to remain in office indefinitely

13 March, 2018, 11:31 | Author: Mable Gonzales
  • Framed portraits of German philosopher Karl Marx Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin and China’s late leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping hang above a screen showing President Xi Jinping

"He just dug a huge hole for himself", said Li Datong, a former editor of the state-run China Youth Daily newspaper said to CNN.

The party loyalists who attended the annual session of parliament have said the decision is popular with ordinary Chinese people and asserted that China was lucky to have a leader of President Xi's calibre.

"There was a consensus that we supported him having more time to finish his work", said Dou Yanli, a delegate from eastern Shandong province. "But from America's perspective, this administration has been very clear of pushing back against the Chinese threat".

Director of London's SOAS China Institute Steve Tsang, who wrote the 2016 book China in the Xi Jinping Era, said extending the presidency beyond two terms was not in itself as significant as showing how impotent the politburo that controls the country had become.

The amendment has enriched clauses on the patriotic united front, harmonious relations among ethnic groups, and peaceful foreign policies, including the addition of building a community with a shared future for humanity.

While social media accounts of major state media outlets either disabled their comment section or only made visible comments praising the party, some words of dissent did manage to make it past the censors.

Such displays of dissidence are extremely rare in China, given the country's crackdown on political opponents and rampant censorship of media platforms, which recently has specifically sought to suppress criticism of Xi's leadership.

Together, the amendments underscore the altered direction China has taken under Mr. Xi. However, many have anxious about the possible return of China to despotic eras.

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This time around, in the constitutional amendments, the principal objective is to write the important philosophies into the constitution, especially Xi Jinping's thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.

The constitutional amendment that was approved today abolished the two-term limit established for the presidents. But the president is the only one with a formal limit of two terms - introduced by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to prevent another lifelong dictatorship after Mao's rule.

Lawmakers at the session agreed that the constitutional revision, which accords with the aspiration of the Party and the people and has won approval from both inside and outside the Party, is of historic significance for ensuring prosperity and lasting security of both the Party and the country.

While the reform and opening-up drive, which began 40 years ago, has made incredible progress, it brought major changes to the country's Constitution. Xi is commonly compared to Putin due to his authoritarianism.

"That doesn't bode well for hard reforms ahead: Will the [Communist Party] be able to raise the retirement age?"

"A second-term president with nothing to lose might have been in a better position to enact these changes and accept the blame before stepping down".

The amendment also applies to the vice presidency, a largely ceremonial post. Xi will practically be able to implement any policy he wants. In the past three decades, constitutional changes have nudged China toward western norms by legalizing the private economy, protecting individual property rights and even enshrining human rights. His predecessors - Jiang Zemin who was in power from 1993 to 2003 and Hu Jintao from 2003 to 2013 - stepped down as the General Secretary of the party as well as the president after widely followed rule as well as a convention of two terms to promote collective leadership system in the one-party state. Liu was a puppet President and fell out of favour during Mao's Cultural Revolution.

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