China's rubber-stamp lawmakers on Sunday passed a historic constitutional amendment abolishing a presidential two-term limit that will enable Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely, reports the AP. The amendment upends a system enacted by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to prevent a return to the bloody excesses of a lifelong dictatorship typified by Mao Zedong's chaotic 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. "This marks the biggest regression in China's legal system since the reform and opening-up era of the 1980s," said Zhang Lifan, an independent, Beijing-based political commentator. "I'm afraid that this will all be written into our history in the future." Voting among the National People's Congress' nearly 3,000 hand-picked delegates began mid-afternoon, with Xi leading members of the Communist Party's seven-member all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee in casting their votes.
The delegates voted 2,958 in favor, with two opposed, three abstaining, and one vote invalidated. "The constitutional amendment item has passed," the announcer declared to polite applause. The 64-year-old Xi appeared to show little emotion, remaining in his seat with other deputies to listen to a report on the work of the congress delivered by its outgoing chairman. While some scholars questioned the wisdom of the move, others said they saw value in sending the message that Xi would be setting policy for many years to come. "In fact, the more Xi Jinping's position is consolidated and the longer his governing time is to last, the more secure it is for the continuity of the policies," said Liu Jiangyong, a professor at Renmin University's School of International Relations. (President Trump, meanwhile, thinks China's move is "great.")