It's Official: China Repeals Term Limits, Allowing Xi To Stay In Power Forever

As expected (and predicted, and propagandized), China's National People's Congress overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to eliminate presidential term limits, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in power after his second term ends in 2023.

The vote was as follows, per the AFP's Joanna Chiu: 2958 in favor, 2 against, 3 abstentions, 1 invalid vote.

As we noted previously, Sunday’s move will make Mr. Xi much more powerful than he already was, and will "dampen any remnants of resistance to his rule", said Zhang Baohui, professor of international affairs at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

"Once people know he will serve for who knows how long, it will strengthen his power and motivate everybody to bandwagon with him," said Mr. Zhang. "Any rival will think he will be almighty."

In other words, "Dear Leader" has returned.

* * *

This historic shift was predicted by many since last fall, when Xi refused to appoint a successor as his power would begin to wane in a year or two as he entered what would've been a lame duck period for his presidency - the second half of his second term.

At the same party congress, Mr. Xi conspicuously broke with precedent by choosing not to name a pair of much younger officials to the Politburo’s ruling inner circle, the seven-member standing committee, to serve as his heirs-in-waiting. Instead, Mr. Xi chose men — no women — who were closer to his own age or older.

Mr. Xi’s strongman style has been compared to that of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. But even Mr. Putin, who has amassed considerable personal power, did not try to erase his country’s constitutional limit on serving more than two consecutive terms as president as he approached that limit in 2008.

Instead, he arranged for a close adviser with limited personal influence, Dmitri A. Medvedev, to serve as president for a single term while Mr. Putin held the post of prime minister. Mr. Putin then returned to the presidency in 2012, and is running this year for re-election to another term.

Mr. Xi may now have even greater power, and the question will be how he chooses to use it.

"Xi Jinping is susceptible to making big mistakes because there are now almost no checks or balances," said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who is the author of a biography of Mr. Xi in 2015. "Essentially, he has become emperor for life."

In another Xi-approved break with tradition, Wang Qishan, a close ally of the president's who helped carry out Xi's campaign against corruption and disloyalty in the party, appears set to return to power as vice president. Wang, 69, stepped down from a party position last year because of his age.

In kneejerk response, some China commentators had rather harsh words for the dramatic change, with WSJ commentator Li Yuan noting that:

"even though this has been talked about for a few years, it still feels like one man’s Pearl Harbor attack on the whole country."

And as Axios' Bill Bishop writes, rather ominously,

Xi is working to obliterate any boundaries between party and state and to reinsert the Communist Party of China (CPC) into all aspects of China's economy and society - all while ensuring he's the unchallenged embodiment of the CPC. The end result will be Xi's complete dominion over all parts of Chinese government and society.

However, GoldMoney's Alasdair Macleod has a slightly different view of this move:

The days when China was the cheapest cost-base for labour in manufacturing are over. Manufacturing for export markets is being increasingly mechanised, lowering unit costs and releasing labour for future expansion in other higher-value industries. The Communist party’s plans include the upgrading of infrastructure and the transition of the economy towards serving the growing middle classes.

Together with proposals to extend her own industrial revolution into the wider Asian landmass, the full transition will probably take up to twenty years.

This is the reason, according to the better-informed China experts, that the National Party Congress currently being held is doing away with the limit on the duration of Xi’s presidency, so that he can complete the plans of which he is the principal architect.

It is not, as reported in Western media, only the glory for Xi of being a dictator for life.

This year’s NPC, in granting Xi the facility to oversee his plans, fully endorses them and their progress. The move away from depending on cheap exports to America and elsewhere is likely to gain momentum, reducing the relative importance of Trump’s tariffs. Instead, China is creating what amounts to a large free trade area throughout Asia with her partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Why should you care about China's seemingly totalitarian shift? Mike Krieger concludes poignantly:

The reason is because a major shift in the polices of the second largest economy in the world, populated with over a billion people and run by leadership intent on establishing a far more dominant position on the world scale militarily and politically, will affect everyone.

Comments

Buckaroo Banzai just the tip Sun, 03/11/2018 - 17:09 Permalink

The most interesting insight I read about this rather dramatic turn of events in Chinese politics was that Xi probably argued to the politburo that very dangerous times lie ahead for the foreseeable future, both domestically and internationally, and consequently the wise thing to do would be to maintain continuity of leadership until the storms had passed.

Either Xi is correct, or he is very persuasive, or both. Only time will tell.

In reply to by just the tip

vato poco Buckaroo Banzai Sun, 03/11/2018 - 17:20 Permalink

OTOH, xi took the top job in ... 2013, was it? 

and I distinctly remember reading articles predicting 'xi will not step down' as early as 2014. commies gonna commie; emperors gonna emperor. I tend to think xi's "times too tricky for me to step down!" argument is less about truth and more about 'what bullshit will they fall for? I know! it's china! I'll use xenophobia! that always works!'

In reply to by Buckaroo Banzai

rwe2late Sun, 03/11/2018 - 11:41 Permalink

 So,

How many terms will Merkel hold power?

Does the Saudi King  have a life-long tenure?

Maybe we think that's not such a good idea.
However, who are we to be telling the Chinese (or others) what they should do politically?
Next, "we" will be (already are) interfering in their internal politics.

But should the Chinese emulate what they see as "democracy" in the USA?
Is the rule  through two (Blue-Red) wings of a self-serving  Oligarchy party
the best political alternative we can offer?

 elections? The oligarchy's vetted candidates for
who can best dupe the mass-ass into believing he/she is the least worst candidate.
Best chosen during never-ending campaigning
at 4-year intervals by mass popularity based on the dumbest of lies,
the dumbest of reasons, and the dumbest of divisive prejudices.

Maybe what we should do is stop the bashing of other countries long enough
 to offer something better by first  "fixing" the USA.

veritas semper… rwe2late Sun, 03/11/2018 - 15:10 Permalink

Well said. Since when everything is America's business?

China has been there for > 5000 years. And most of their history ,they had an Emperor .

Deal with it.

And ,how about America makes some real change here at home ,like you said.

Let's start with the Federal Reserve ,in power since 1913.(cause they are the ones calling the shots or is it shorts)

In reply to by rwe2late

Davidduke2000 Sun, 03/11/2018 - 11:41 Permalink

Why the us is triggered if the Chinese want their leader to be on for few years?? the yank's presidential election cost at least $2.5 billion in buying votes which is very far from a Canadian democracy that cost about $250,000 

the us congress election cost $1 trillion, this is  vote buying of the highest order, and all this is to manage 325 million people, how much would cost the us in election if they had 1.4 billion people??

silverer Sun, 03/11/2018 - 11:43 Permalink

Keep in mind what happened to the vote in Crimea where they voted to rejoin Russia. The west was invited in by Russia to observe the vote, and the west declined. Then the west rejected the result. I'm wondering what the official comment of the EU and US will be on the Chinese vote?

Kagemusho Sun, 03/11/2018 - 11:46 Permalink

All while China's debt burden expands exponentially, partly due to 'One Belt/One Road' projects.  While the US engages in military imperial over-reach, China engages in commercial imperial (and eventually, military) over-reach.

When the global economic bubble pops, those Chinese workers unemployed courtesy of automation will have a lot of time on their hands to revolt. Xi thinks consolidating power will blunt that. He's kept the lid on so far, but that only means the pressure has had more time to build.

3-fingered_chemist Sun, 03/11/2018 - 11:46 Permalink

To me this suggests that all is not well in China. They are preparing for a populace uprising, IMO. 

China is really not even the lowest wage bidder anymore. That spells doom for a population of 1.4 billion that have been riding the high tide for awhile.

BritBob Sun, 03/11/2018 - 12:00 Permalink

Another fairy story -

China – Argentina – the Falklands

In tune with President Macri's words, Xi Jinping thanked Argentina "the support they have given us for our claim of a single China as we support theirs for the Falkland Islands."  (Telam 17 May 2017). Oh dear...

How would a map of the world look today if all of the territory lost and gained over the past 180 years reverted to its 19th century status? Quite a ridiculous proposal.

Falklands – Acquisitive Prescription(1 pg): https://www.academia.edu/35552595/Falklands_-Acquisitive_Prescription