Beijing, China: China parliament, the National People’s Congress today, Sunday, approved a historical constitutional amendment abolishing presidential term limits – with 2958 votes in favour, 2 against, 3 abstained, 1 ballot invalid – for the President and Vice President and paving the way for President Xi Jinping to govern as long as he chooses to.
During Sunday’s session, lawmakers lifted the current limit of two five-year presidential terms and introduced “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” as a new principle in the preamble of the constitution.
The latter change allows the government to treat criticism of Xi as unconstitutional.
A new national regulatory commission is also enshrined in the constitution. The committee, as outlined, would operate with far-reaching authority alongside the judiciary – and independently of the country’s high court – against corruption, malfeasance of office or civil servants’ overly lax implementation of political goals.
Critics see the commission as a new tool of political persecution.
By writing the new sentence “The leadership of the CPC is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics” into the Constitution, the principle was strengthened, deepened and expanded, said Shen Chunyao, chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC) legislative commission. The revision has reflected the fundamental, comprehensive and contemporary nature of the CPC leadership, he highlighted. The Party exercises overall leadership over all areas of endeavor in every part of the country, Shen added.
“As an important content of the amendment, the inclusion of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era into the country’s fundamental law reflects the common aspiration of the entire Party and all Chinese people of various ethnic groups,” said Shen.
Xi’s thought is the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and encapsulates the practical experience and collective wisdom of the CPC and the people, Shen noted.
“It has been the fundamental theoretical guide for the historic achievements and shifts made in the cause of the Party and the country since the 18th CPC National Congress,” he said.
The addition of Xi’s thought and the Scientific Outlook on Development has ensured the country’s guiding theories to advance with the times, according to Shen.
By eliminating the two-term limit, Xi Jinping can stay at the helm beyond 2023 when his second five-year term ends, enabling him to become president for life, if he so chooses. China’s president will be able to get re-elected every five years instead of serving no more than two consecutive terms.
China lists the supervisory commission as a new type of state organ in its Constitution.
“Among the amendments to 21 items in China’s Constitution, 11 of them are about the national supervisory commission,” Zheng Shuna, the vice chairwoman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC standing committee, said during the press conference.
According to Zheng, the national supervisory commission will be China’s highest body of supervision.
“The purpose of this reform is to combine the resources and forces to fight against corruption, strengthening the central leadership of the Party’s anti-corruption work and building a centralized, unified, authoritative and effective national supervisory system,” Zheng told reporters.
The two-term limit on the presidency was introduced by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to prevent a repeat of Mao Zedong’s tumultuous decades-long reign that only ended in his death. With the vote on Sunday, all three titles Xi holds – including the more important party boss and military chief roles – are free of formal term limits.
Xi Jinping’s power play was foreshadowed at the twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress last October, when the party appointed five new members of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, none of whom was young enough or had the credentials to become Xi’s successor.
Even before today’s developments, Xi Jinping already achieved near-absolute dominance over the Chinese political system, having accumulated more power in his first term than any of his predecessors since Mao Zedong. Xi, nicknamed “China’s chairman of everything”, has taken personal control of policymaking on everything from politics, the economy, national security and foreign affairs to the internet, environment and maritime disputes. His political theory – “Xi Jinping thought” – has been enshrined in the party charter, an honour that puts it on par with Mao’s doctrine and superior to Deng Xiaoping’s.
The NPC session kicked off on March 5 and will finish on March 20.