By: Katherine Wang
In a sweeping gesture, China’s parliament voted to allow President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely, rousing both support for a more unified leadership and criticism of a potential dictatorship.
In a move to reform the existing political laws, China’s parliament voted to repeal the current presidential two-term limits as part of a broader package of constitutional amendments.
Their proposals also include a myriad of other factors:
Although these amendments are still fresh out of the parliament, China has already deeply incorporated these amendments into its political system. For instance, it has already censored images that criticize President Xi’s power grab on social media. Images of Winnie the Pooh (which, to some people, bears a striking resemblance to Xi) and search terms like “lifelong” and “emperor” have been removed from the internet and social media due to their subversive natures. According to a China policy analyst, “Dissenting is becoming riskier. The room for debate is becoming narrower. The risk of a policy mistake could become higher and correcting a flawed policy could take longer.”
Those who support the elimination of term limits believe that it will lead to a more efficient style of governing by unifying leadership and speeding up the pace of President Xi’s reform agenda. One spokesman for the National People’s Congress stated that "It's conducive to upholding the authority of the Central Committee of the party with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core and also to unify leadership. Also, it will help strengthen and improve the country's governance.” Instead of being a bureaucracy that is stuck in a slough of controversial issues, China should have one absolute ruler, these supporters state, so that decisions can be made more speedily and without resistance.
On the other hand, critics such as Li Datong, who was once an editor for the China Youth Daily newspaper, argue that these new constitutional amendments are a “historic retrogression”. Datong notes that “throughout history, only Chinese emperors and Mao Zedong had lifelong tenure until their deaths. And what came out of that was a disaster for the society and many painful lessons.” Datong and others believe that centralized control is the recipe for political catastrophes and something not fit for a country that is supposedly part of the modern world. “Most of the modern countries in the world adopt this two-term presidency. That's why people find it unbelievable that Xi is going to stay in power more than two terms," said a political commentator. Instead of acting like the global superpower that it is, China seems to be transforming back into its previous dynastic and dictatorial states -- a red flag towards many critics who have studied historical power dynamics.
Still, this amendment received more support than opposition in the National People’s Congress, with 2,958 people who voted in favor of passing it, two who opposed it, and three who abstained from voting at all. The future of China’s political system rests in the hands of these parliament members, as well as how the government interprets these amendments.