China's Move: Term Limits 'Not Usually Found in Dictatorships'

5 reactions to the Communist Party's proposed alteration of Constitution
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2018 8:21 AM CST
President, Dictator, Emperor? Inside Xi Jinping's Power Grab
In this Oct 25, 2017, file photo, Chinese President Xi Jinping claps while addressing the media as he introduces new members of the Politburo Standing Committee at Beijing's Great Hall of the People.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

China's Xi Jinping was set to step down in 2023, his presidency curtailed by a two-term limit. Now, with the news that China's ruling Communist Party has proposed scrapping the clause that president and vice president "shall serve no more than two consecutive terms" from the constitution, a path may be opening that would allow Xi to rule for life. Five takes on the news:

  • Bloomberg, Brendan Scott: "The move shows the speed with which Xi has consolidated power over a fifth of humanity, sidelining rivals and silencing dissent. And it provides short-term stability to investors who have come to view Xi as a steady—if heavy—hand as China manages slowing growth, increasing middle-class demands and expanding global clout."
  • New York Times, Chris Buckley and Keith Bradsher: "The timing of the announcement startled even experienced observers of Chinese politics: Mr. Xi completes his first term as president next month and could have waited until late in his second term to act. He also could have stepped down after his second term and run the country from behind the scenes, as some of his predecessors have."

  • Blog of China expert Jerome Cohen: "Term limits for the leadership are not usually found in dictatorships. The ... proposed abolition of China’s presidential term limit means that it has forgotten one of the main lessons of Mao’s long despotism. The two-term limit ... reflected a widespread desire to prevent the return of one-man dictatorship. Its abolition signals the likelihood of another long period of severe repression. ... Xi decided to strike while the iron is hot rather than wait for later in his new term when increasing problems might have made the change more difficult."
  • Guardian: "Bill Bishop, the publisher of the Sinocism newsletter on Chinese politics, said the move confirmed Xi's mutation into a species of 'Putin-plus'—only Xi was 'much more effective, much more powerful and, frankly, much more ambitious' than his Russian counterpart."
  • Washington Post, Simon Denyer: In an otherwise critical piece, Denyer sees "a potential upside to all of this. Xi has already used his power to implement a far-reaching crackdown on corruption, even if it has also been used to instill obedience and eliminate rivals. He is equally determined to improve the way the party governs China, eliminate poverty and even improve the country's poisoned environment."
(More Xi Jinping stories.)

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