China abolishes term limits, makes Xi Jinping president for life

China abolishes term limits for Xi

China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, or CCDI, which has great latitude to investigate Communist Party members, has similarly been accused of acting with impunity, including through its use of extra-legal detention powers to subject people to extended sleep deprivation and other forms of psychological pressure.

Voting among the National People's Congress' almost 3,000 hand-picked delegates began in the mid-afternoon, with Xi leading members of the Communist Party's seven-member all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee in casting their votes.

This is perhaps a conciliatory sop to the former president and his political allies, who have seen their power severely curtailed under Xi (China Brief, May 11, 2016). "But from America's perspective, this administration has been very clear of pushing back against the Chinese threat".

China's Communist Party has voted through changes to its constitution abolishing presidential term limits, opening up the possibility Xi Jinping could rule for life.

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The limit of two five-year presidential terms was written into China's constitution after Mao's death in 1976 by Deng Xiaoping, who recognised the dangers of one-man rule and the cult of personality and instead espoused collective leadership.

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. "The term limit - while only applying to the lesser role of the state presidency - has also come to shape expectations for the timing of transitions in the leadership of the party and military". As the goal of the other 20 amendments is to underscore the centrality and importance of Xi Jinping to the Chinese system, this new requirement would, in effect, force the whole of China's enormous bureaucratic apparatus to swear personal loyalty to Xi Jinping.

"Throughout history, only Chinese emperors and Mao Zedong had lifelong tenure until their deaths", Li said. But going far beyond the mandatory two-thirds majority requirement, the near-unanimous vote conveys the impression of deep consensus in the establishment for backing President Xi.

Some Chinese people worry that the abrupt change augurs a return to the strife over succession that troubled the eras of Mao and Deng.

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His predecessors, Hu and Jiang Zemin, had conventionally announced their successors.

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.

In the Great Hall of the People, Xi cast his vote first, placing a paper into a large red ballot box, followed by the other six members of the party's elite Standing Committee.

Another authorized a new investigative agency to step up the anticorruption drive that Xi has used to consolidate his control over the party.

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"That doesn't bode well for hard reforms ahead: Will the [Communist Party] be able to raise the retirement age?" Enact a property tax? The president's post is largely ceremonial while the real power rests with the CPC General Secretary and Chairman of the Military Commission, the overall high-command of the military. Xi will practically be able to implement any policy he wants. The ending of the presidential term limit "will pose greatdanger to China, such as bringing another Cultural Revolution", he added, referring to the chaotic, decade-long mass campaign to weed out political opponents under Mao's rule.

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