When it comes to Communist nations, perhaps one of the reasons that the People’s Republic of China outlived the Soviet Union was the fact that it managed to hew closer to the ideal of collective leadership and guaranteed transfers of power from one head to another, rather distinct from its fellow Communists states in history which tended to get strongman dictatorial leaders who stayed in power for life. Even China had a taste of that, which is why they went out of their way not to let it recur. But a repeat may be possible where Xi Jinping is concerned.
The Los Angeles Times reports that China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, may well have opened the path for Xi Jinping to keep the office of President of China for potentially his whole lifetime. During the annual assembly of the NPC in Beijing on Monday, March 5, some of its members floated a proposal to do away with the two-term limit to the tenure of the Presidential Office. Xi Jinping, who has been President since 2013, has enjoyed massive popular support for his leadership and policies at home and abroad. To that end, the NPC wants him to stay indefinitely.
The office of President of China can be rather odd. On their Constitution it is largely ceremonial, with the office-holder serving the interests of the NPC legislature. This changed in the 1990s when the Presidency is given as a matter of course to the current head of the Communist Party of China (CCP), who is “elected” to the post by the NPC and serves the same duration as the body, with a chance for just one more term afterwards. Abolishing the term limits was first floated by the NPC in February 25, and proposed in the annual session.
Reasons for wanting to keep Xi Jinping as President are varied, but all point to his effectiveness in both growing China’s power projection both with the economy and the military. State propaganda has also elevated him in the Chinese consciousness as a man of the people, who then cannot help but follow his lead. Years ago, while visiting the Maldives, he encouraged Chinese tourists to clean up after themselves in their hotels. They listened. A Fujian noodle shop he ate regularly at 20 years ago never runs out of customers. And the UK pub where he took a pint with David Cameron in 2015? It’s a Chinese-owned business now.
Xi Jinping, now age 64, became CPP General Secretary in 2012 and then President of China in 2013, both positions he took over from their former holder Hu Jintao. The term-limit abolition proposal, if passed, would be the first Constitutional amendment since 2004.
Photo courtesy of news.abs-cbn.com