Chinese lawmakers rule to abolish presidential term limit

Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after the parliament passed a constitutional amendment lifting presidential term limit

Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after the parliament passed a constitutional amendment lifting presidential term limit

China on Sunday abolished presidential term limits from its constitution, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to remain in office for an unrestricted amount of time.

In another victory for Jinping, the draft amendments to the Constitution would add his trademark expression for his main ideas - "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" - into the preamble of the Constitution.

But Mr Xi, who would have been due to step down in 2023, defied the tradition of presenting a potential successor during October's Communist Party Congress.

For India, observers say, Xi's continuation will have particular significance, especially in the backdrop of last year's 73-day-long Dokalam standoff where Chinese troops tried to build a road in the area claimed by Bhutan to reach close to India's narrow corridor connecting its northeastern states.

Mao was the "Great Helmsman", Deng the "Paramount Leader" - now meet Xi Jinping, whose growing personality cult has some calling him China's "Chairman of Everything".

The constitutional changes were passed by China's annual sitting of the National People's Congress on Sunday.

The constitutional amendment will remove the hurdle for 64-year-old Xi to become leader of China for life. More specifically, with constitutional amendment just introduced by Chinese Communist Party's leadership, it makes clear that it is not interested in an open confrontation with or powers in world but cooperation for mutual benefit. "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". If the next Communist Party congress in 2022 effectively abolishes the customary retirement age of 68 for senior officials, Xi could rule the party and state into the mid-2030s, when he would be well into his 80s.

The results of the vote on a constitutional amendment lifting presidential term limits is seen on a giant screen
Image The result of the vote is seen on a giant screen

"It is rare nowadays to see a country with a constitution that emphasizes the constitutional position of any one political party", Zhang said.

Despite the prospect of official retaliation, a number of prominent Chinese figures have also publicly protested against the move.

Critics of the move said that China shifted from "one-party rule" to essentially a "one-man rule". China allows no political opposition in any form and has relentlessly persecuted independent groups seeking greater civic participation.

The most recent amendment in 2004 protected private property and human rights and gave the Theory of Three Represents constitutional authority.

But if the economy veers off course, whether by Xi's own doing or because of a global downturn, the leader's support could waver.

"It looks very much like the early stage of Putin, the accumulation of power", said Innes-Ker, the analyst.

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