The Chinese parliament abolished presidential term limits on Sunday, March 11, giving Xi Jinping free rein to impose his long-term vision of a superpower subject to the Communist Party.
At 64, the most powerful Chinese president for at least a quarter century will be able to remain the head of China beyond the 2023 term.
“The Xi Jinping Thought” in the Constitution
By 2,958 votes in favor, two against and three abstentions, the deputies of the National People’s Assembly unsurprisingly approved a change in the Constitution, which now limits presidential terms to two-five years with two-thirds majority.
The amendment also includes “Xi Jinping Thought” in the Constitution, as well as “the leading role” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in its first article.
This provision may point to an upsurge in repression of regime opponents who could be accused of violating the Constitution for simply challenging the CCP’s grip on power.
Increased Regime Authority
Since his arrival, the head of the CCP at the end of 2012, and then at the beginning of 2013 Xi Jinping has increased the authority of the regime, with a lot of propaganda and omnipresence in the state media.
Xi, herald of the “great renaissance of the Chinese nation” , seeks to embody the revenge of a modern and respected superpower in the face of the West by 2050 but without concession to individual liberties.
Stupor of public opinion
The Chinese president’s ambition to remain at the helm of the country beyond the planned term of 2023 is perhaps the most unexpected event in nearly three decades in a political regime that usually avoids surprises.
Announced just two weeks ago, this bill has stunned some of the public, but critics who have been on social media for a while have been swiftly erased by censors.
The two-term limit was imposed in the 1982 Constitution by the strong man of the day, Deng Xiaoping, in order to avoid a return to the dictatorial regime of the Mao Tse-tung era (1949-76).
“A new tyrant at the Mao”
“Forty-two years later, in the era of the Internet and globalization, a new Great Leader, a new Mao-tyrant is rising again in China,” denounced dissident Hu Jia, questioned at the phone by AFP in the south of the country, where the authorities took him away from Beijing in “forced holidays” at the annual plenary session of the PNA.
“If they have not dared to thwart constitutional change, some MPs could let out their bad mood by the end of the session on March 20” says Chinese policy specialist Willy Lam from Chinese University, Hong Kong.
Anti-corruption campaign against the opposition
According to him, no deputy will dare to vote against Xi Jinping during his election for a second term. But they could elect less the candidate for the vice presidency, which should be Wang Qishan, the “czar of corruption” of the first term of Mr. Xi.
The anti-corruption campaign is seen by many as a way for Xi to rule out internal opponents. But it has alienated him from many cadres, which could explain why Xi is trying to stay in power as long as possible, according to Lam.
“Xi Jinping does not feel safe because he’s had too many enemies in the last five years,” he says.