China has opened the door to a lifetime appointment for President Xi with the removal of a two-term limit on the presidency.
The constitutional changes were passed at the annual sitting of the National People’s Congress over the weekend. All of the 2,958 delegates voted in favor of the resolution, save two voting against and three abstentions. The legislature is often decried as a rubber-stamp for the Party.
This upends a system laid out in 1982 by former leader Deng Xiaoping, in what most understand to have been his effort to limit power and prevent lifelong dictatorships.
Speaking with XiYan, a young mainland student attending university in Hong Kong, she said “The (China) news says it’s a great progress in history in China, but you know, it’s hard for us to tell or judge, but generally speaking, it is beneficial to political stability in the long-term.” Adding the small caveat, “I think though, in my opinion, it is not great for progress for the country.”
A young Hong Kong businessman who wished to remain anonymous said, “Talking to my friend yesterday we thought, he (President Xi) wants to be the emperor of China. He wants to get all the powers. Xi is a smart person, but with selfish views.”
At the relatively young age of 64, Xi Jinping is now the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and the President of the People’s Republic of China. His reign of power has the potential to last a couple of decades.
When asked what it may mean for Hong Kong, the anonymous businessman replied “I think… the Chief Executive may be inspired to amend the Basic Law, to be the CE forever.”
Also during the National People’s Congress other revisions were made that further cement the control and supremacy of the Communist Party, including a new anti-graft agency, the inclusion of the party’s leadership into the main body of the country’s constitution, and adding “Xi Thought” as a main political theory.
It was reported that censors worked diligently to mask dissent and limit discussion about the events. While voices may have been silenced within the ‘great firewall’, it was not the case for Chinese living abroad.
Posters in protest of the removal of term limits began to show up on several foreign universities last week, with some featuring a portrait of Xi and the words, “Not My President”. A has been created and hashtags abound.
One of the top ten banned terms on Chinese social media is Yuan Shikai 袁世凱, the first president of the Republic of China, who tried to declare himself emperor in 1915. The attempt ultimately failed and Yuan died soon after.
The picture to the right recently made the internet rounds, featuring an old picture of Yuan Shikai with his face photoshopped out and replaced with that of President Xi Jinping.
Only the passage of time will tell what the ramifications of such a decision will entail. While the term limits have been removed, it does not necessarily mean Xi Jinping will always prevail as the leader, but he’s done well through his ‘anti-corruption’ campaign to remove any threats to his continued reign.