China: Xi Jinping scraps presidential term limits, becomes permanent president
-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
This essay gives an idea about China’s policies, its future plans and ideas; it also tries to compare the failed Soviet experiments with Chinese model of development.
It is not strange that every ruler is eager to rule forever even without any serious reforms being effected into the system to serve the people much better, but the constitutional restrictions deny them to be the permanent rulers. Dynastic rule in a way perform the permanent ruling character. Even in democracies sons and daughters are being pampered to take over from patents to the nation as their prerogative.
In a rather strange manner by which rulers of entire world would feel zealous, Xi Jinping has made himself legally the permanent president of China. For instance, the US president Trump and Israeli PM Netanyahu- both face wrath of people of their respective country for their arrogance and corruption, for the waste of money on terror wars and losing lives of soldiers, very much would like to rule their countries permanently without the need to face the voters in future.
Yes, not just Trump and Netanyahu but most of the rulers want to be permanent ones. Arab rulers, Indian PM Modi are not alone in dreaming to be the permanent rulers. While Arab rulers also can easily pass a law to that effect, PM Modi has to wait until the upper house of Parliament is full of his party members to make “reforms” in the constitution to make India one party ruled nation and himself the permanent ruler. Interestingly, India’s former PM Dr Manmohan Singh who promoted rampant corruption in India by allowing every minister and official to loot the resources at will is also dreaming of becoming the permanent PM of India if his boss Ms. Sonia Gandhi manages to get a non-BJP coalition and win the elections next year.
- China elects its first ever permanent president
Recently, on March 11 the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) in a two-week summit in Beijing made the President Xi the permanent president to make the nation stronger. The move allows the 64-year-old Xi to remain in power for as long as he wishes, ruling as a virtual emperor, and is the latest feather in the cap of a Communist “princeling” who is re-making China in his own image. The almost 3,000 delegates to the country’s legislature passed the measure as part of a package of changes to the country’s constitution, with 2,958 voting for, two against and three abstaining.
China’s parliament voted to abolish presidential term limits, clearing the path for President Xi Jinping to rule for life. The National People’s Congress agreed to strike a 36-year-old constitutional provision barring the president from serving more than two consecutive terms and to enact sweeping legislative changes that would allow Xi to rule indefinitely and give him greater control over the levers of money and power. The amendment removes the only barrier keeping Xi, 64, from staying on after his expected second term ends in 2023.
Some analysts have speculated that President Xi Jinping will seek to stay on beyond 2023, when his second term is due to end, breaking a tradition followed by his two predecessors and emulating Russian President Vladimir Putin who would resume his third term shortly at the Kremlin. Russians want a strong President like Putin to be their leader permanently.
The congress accorded him a sort of ideological dominance by referring to his writings about communism by name in the party’s constitution—something denied to his two predecessors. Doing this would make Xi China’s ideological arbiter. His predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, were appointed mainly to continue Deng’s economic reforms.
The CPC decision includes repealing presidential term limits, creating a powerful new agency to police officials and possibly approving the biggest regulatory overhaul of the $43 trillion finance-and-insurance sector in 15 years. As Xi presided over the closing session in the Great Hall of the People, more than 2,200 delegates raised their hands in unison to approve the party charter amendments, with staffers announcing “meiyou” (“none”) to indicate the lack of dissenting or abstaining votes.
The term-limits repeal is part of a package of amendments to China’s constitution. They include inserting Xi’s name alongside Mao’s and Deng’s, and enshrining in law his principles for a more assertive foreign policy. Neither of Xi’s other two main titles — party leader and commander-in-chief of the military — come with term limits. The changes also allow for the creation of a powerful new law enforcement and ethics commission to police public servants, making permanent an anti-graft campaign that has punished more than 1.5 million officials.
The amendment generates a level of uncertainty. The term limit — while only applying to the lesser role of the state presidency — has also come to shape expectations for the timing of transitions in the leadership of the party and military.” Deng Xiaoping Theory was added to the constitution six months after his death in February 1997. China’s previous two presidents, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, haven’t had their names enshrined in the constitution in this way.
Xi Jinping has joined the pantheon of Chinese leadership two decades after bursting onto the scene as a graft-fighting governor who went on to earn comparisons with Mao Zedong in his quest for unrestricted power.
The NPC would definitely endorse appointment of Xi to a second term.
Xi declared that China should “take center stage in the world,” and that its brand of socialism offers “a new choice for other countries.” He added that, “no one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests.” Xi’s “new era” philosophy sought to establish China as a superpower that “plays a rule-setting role in global affairs.”
At the end of a pivotal twice-a-decade meeting, party delegates voted unanimously to make “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” a guiding principle for the party.
- Importance of President Xi
Xi has a dream: the dream of a rejuvenated China, again dominating “everything under heaven”, might be popular. And if Xi can make the country respected abroad, that might translate into respect for the party at home. Hence his second concern—China in the world—reinforces his first.
Trump’s America-first nationalism has given Xi a chance to claim global leadership. In January 2017 he told the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos that China should “guide economic globalization”. A month later he added that it should “guide international society towards a more just and rational new world order.”
Vast sums back up the slogans. Xi’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, his most ambitious foreign policy, involves spending hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure in 60-odd countries in Asia and Europe. If it works, it could make Eurasian trade, centered on China, a rival to transatlantic trade, focused on America.
Xi has been more assertive in pressing China’s claims in the South China Sea. Last year, a UN tribunal rejected those claims. China promptly persuaded the Philippines, which had brought the case, to disavow its legal victory in return for lavish investment. Xi’s reform of the PLA has made the armed forces more outward-looking. They used to be organised mainly for defence and control of the domestic population. Xi has built up the navy, created new “theatre commands” to project force abroad and has opened China’s first overseas military base in Djibouti.
And he has greatly expanded China’s influence-buying activities abroad. China has long supported instruments of soft power such as the Confucius Institutes, which teach foreigners about the Chinese language and culture. Now, the party is also putting money into media operations in the West and trying to use overseas Chinese people as agents of state policy. In short, Xi has disavowed Deng’s advice that, in foreign affairs, China should “keep a low profile and never claim leadership.”
It is impossible to say whether he has sprinkled the stardust of legitimacy upon his party, as he wants. An opinion poll in 2016 by the Pew Research Centre in America found that only 60% of Chinese thought their involvement in the global economy a good thing. On the other hand, this year’s cinematic smash hit is a “patriotic” film called “Wolf Warriors 2”, showing a Chinese soldier killing bad guys round the world. So perhaps bossing foreigners around might prove popular.
At any rate, if Xi’s efforts have had mixed results, that is not because they have failed. As with his party reforms, he can congratulate himself on a job well started. China’s vast bureaucracy has lumbered into action behind the belt and road project. China is buttressing its claims in the South China Sea with new facts on the ground or, rather, in the ocean, in the form of military construction on artificial islands. The country is now widely regarded as a leader in global climate talks.
Xi, in short, can look back with some satisfaction on the twin goals he set himself. But there remains a more profound question, whether they are the right aims for his country. During the next decade, a number of slow-burning problems will start to blaze. Water shortages, historically one of China’s most severe challenges, will become acute. More poisoned air will be pumped out and more poisoned soil uncovered. The first generation born under the one-child policy is reaching marriageable age, bringing with it the excess of boys over girls that was exacerbated by population control. The vast debts built up by China’s local governments and state-owned enterprises will also have to be handled.
What these disparate matters have in common is that many of the best solutions come from outside the party. Environmental groups could put public pressure on polluters. A freer press could shine a light on all sorts of abuses, from corruption to fraud. More competition among firms, as well as harder budget constraints, would reduce the excess debt of state-owned enterprises and local governments.
Perhaps the only serious setback to Xi’s claim to leadership has come in North-East Asia. His unwillingness to rein in Kim Jong Un’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is keeping America more involved in Asia than it might otherwise be, and increasing the chances that Japan and South Korea might one day deploy nuclear defences of their own. That would hardly be in anyone’s interest, especially China’s.
Xi is going in the opposite direction. He is limiting the press, closing down civil-society groups and squeezing the space for public discussion. To do him justice, he is not doing this because he is turning his back on China’s problems. But he is determined that only the party may be allowed to address them. And if it fails, then the problems will not be addressed.
While Xi’s new power might provide reassurance to investors who believe that bureaucratic resistance has slowed his reform agenda, risks could mount over time. Centralized control by one man could become a problem should his health fail or subordinates hesitate to question bad decisions from the top.
In the long run, the change may bring some uncertainties, like ‘key man’ risk. 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.
Globally, it’s about making sure China becomes a superpower that gets to make the rules. Xi Jinping now has an institutional guarantee of support. He can be emperor for life — staying in power as long as his health allows.
Xi looks set to emerge from the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China stronger than ever, both domestically and on the international stage.
President Xi is a trailblazer; he opens up a new model for China’s development.” Other people said they didn’t know what it meant Xi had managed to “totally repudiate” a tradition of collective leadership instituted by Deng: “It’s a return to one-man rule. It’s a backward step.”
When asked what he thought of Xi Jinping
However, it looks like that Wang Qishan, Xi’s anti-corruption czar, will be retiring despite some speculation that Xi would bend the rules and allow him to stay on in the PBSC — despite being older than the customary retirement age of 68. His name wasn’t on a list of Central Committee members from which the politburo and its standing committee are named. Retaining Wang would have set a precedent for any future power play by Xi, 64, to stay in the top job beyond 2022.
President Xi Jinping is the first Chinese leader to have been born after 1949, when Mao’s Communist forces took over following a protracted civil war. The purging of his father led to years of difficulties for the family, but he nevertheless rose through its ranks. Beginning as a county-level party secretary in 1969, Xi climbed to the governorship of coastal Fujian province in 1999, then party chief of Zhejiang province in 2002 and eventually Shanghai in 2007. That same year, he was appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee.
Following Mao’s disastrous economic campaigns and the bloody 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, the Communist leadership sought to prevent further chaos by tempering presidential power through a system in which major personnel and policy decisions were hashed out by the ruling Politburo Standing Committee. The move helped prevent political power from becoming too concentrated in the hands of a single leader but was also blamed for policy indecision that led to growing ills such as worsening pollution, corruption and social unrest.
A devoted communist seeking to refine the system, President Xi sees himself as China’s third transformational president, alongside Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Mao held the country together and established the communist state. Deng set China on the road to riches and saved the party from the lure of democracy. Xi’s aim is to give China back its rightful place at the centre of its world and to save the party again, this time from itself.
Big Uncle Xi, as he has been dubbed by Communist propaganda, has broken sharply with that tradition since taking over as president in 2013 and now looms over the country in a deepening cult of personality. He has used crackdowns on corruption to extent his hold over the party and calls for a revitalized party to become the most powerful Chinese leader in decades. Fighting graft and upholding party leadership were already central to him in 2000.
Xi vowed to root out corruption following a $10 billion smuggling scandal, but ruled out political reform to confront the problem, saying he would work within the one-party structure and system of political consultation and “supervision by the masses”. As Xi presided over the closing session in the Great Hall of the People, more than 2,200 delegates raised their hands in unison to approve the party charter amendments, with staffers announcing “meiyou” (“none”) to indicate the lack of dissenting or abstaining votes.
Xi Jinping is now 64 and has got at least 20 years left in him that would take him almost to the centenary of the establishment of the People’s Republic in 2049.
Xi, who was given a second term as the party’s general secretary at the five-yearly party congress in October, has amassed seemingly unchecked power and a level of officially stoked adulation unseen since Communist China’s founder Mao.
The people’s government, according to Xi, must never forget the word the ‘people’ and we must do everything we can to serve the people, but to get all the government officials to do this is not easy.
At home, Xi has taken down senior leaders in his anti-corruption drive, launched an unprecedented crackdown on free speech, and radically overhauled the two-million strong People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest fighting force. Domestically, the move to enshrine Xi’s name in the party charter would signify greater party control over all aspects of life in China.
Critics say that Xi Jinping has been good for China’s Communist Party; less so for China. Contradicting Deng Xiaoping, Xi has concentrated vast power in his own hands. His personal powers reflect his exalted sense of mission. He is president; head of the party and in July was referred to by state media as “supreme commander”, a title last conferred on Deng. He bestrides the bureaucracy like a colossus, having swept away and replaced almost all the party leaders and local governors in China’s 31 provinces, as well as much of the top brass of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). More members of the China’s “supreme ruler” was seeking to change China’s constitution rather than simply ignoring it, so as to avoid looking like “some sort of Banana Republic”. But the effect was the same: “He’s signaling: ‘I’m going to stay on forever.
Xi was later to complain that “among party members…even senior cadres, there are those whose conviction isn’t strong enough and who are not loyal to the party.” Members were corrupt. They no longer believe in communism. Some even talked about moving to a more democratic system of government. To Xi, this was a road to ruin. “If morale is low, organisation loose, discipline and ethics unchecked,” he wrote, “then in the end we will not only fail but…the tragedy of the Emperor Chu who was murdered in 202BC might occur again.”
While calling for China’s “great rejuvenation” as a world power, Xi has cultivated a personal image as a man of the people who dresses modestly and buys his own steamed buns at an ordinary shop.
Following a divorce from his first wife, Xi married the celebrity soprano Peng Liyuan in 1987, at a time when she was much more famous than him. The couple’s daughter, Xi Mingze, studied at Harvard but stays out of the public eye.
Above all, Xi has shifted the balance of power between party and government. Prime ministers used to be in charge of the economy but the main institution for economic policymaking now seems to be the leading small group on deepening reform, which Xi chairs. Wang Qishan, the head of the CCDI, said earlier this year that “there is no such thing as the separation between the party and the government.” Compare that with a speech made by Deng in 1980: “It is time for us to distinguish between the responsibilities of the party and those of the government,” the former leader said, “and to stop substituting the former for the latter.” In his attempt to bolster the party’s fortunes, Xi has turned the clock back almost 40 years.
Anti-corruption actions Xi Jinping took very seriously, more aggressively than Soviet leader Gorbachev did but took care not to harm the party in any manner as Gorbachev faced. Xi has taken down senior leaders in his anti-corruption drive, launched an unprecedented crackdown on free speech, and radically overhauled the two-million strong People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest fighting force.
Xi’s personal authority has been enhanced, so far without serious public opposition. This is one of the dangers of his programme. So much depends on him personally that there is a risk everything will collapse when he goes. Or that he will be tempted to stay on and on. As one liberal commentator says, Xi has offended too many people to walk away quietly. For good or ill, he has begun to make the party a more effective instrument of control.
- As permanent president of China, what does Xi Jinping aim at?
Pathetic end of Soviet Union and its isolation alerted China to be on its guard. Clearly, Xi was appointed to save the party. Although China experiences tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrations each year, these are local affrays which are mostly reactions to greedy local governments. The party faces no national threat and seems to have bounced back from the traumatic events around Tiananmen Square in 1989. Yet that is not how Xi saw matters in 2012. To him, and to the elite who chose him as China’s leader, the party faced an existential threat.
China’s strong or authoritarian leader Xi took power in 2012 and had been expected to rule until 2023. However, last week it emerged that Xi would attempt to use an annual meeting of China’s parliament, which kicks off, to abolish presidential term limits by changing the Chinese constitution.
Xi repeatedly referred to “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” during a three-and-a-half-hour opening speech to the National Party Congress last week. And the resolution passed Tuesday echoed many of the same themes. The address detailed his sweeping vision for the country, charting its future in a world where China’s reach is now extending — and being felt — further than ever before.
Chinese leaders attribute the Soviet implosion to a failure of self-confidence by Russian communists and are determined that nothing like that should ever occur in China. It is not ancient history that frightens Xi, however. It is the disintegration of the Soviet Union. For him, everything begins and ends with the party (“east, west, north or south, the party leads everything,” he wrote. If it collapses, so will the country.
Xi has spoken of the Russians “not being man enough” to stand up for their party. From the start, he set out to be man enough. He is well prepared to shore up the party’s beliefs.
Discipline requires self-control. Xi has instituted what he calls “democratic life meetings” for members to reflect on their behavior and learn to set an example. It means attending ideology classes. Party leaders have always run ideological campaigns but Xi has been unusually enthusiastic about them. In 2016 he even started an online campaign encouraging members to write out the party constitution by hand, like naughty schoolchildren. Xi is putting the communist back into communist China.
The best known of his campaigns is aimed at corruption. Since 2012 the main anti-graft body, the Central Commission on Discipline Inspection (CCDI), has begun disciplinary actions against 1.4m party members. But it is only part of a broader effort to instill discipline. At a meeting just before the congress, the Politburo reported that “for the party, strict self-governance in every sense will never end.”
Discipline requires loyalty. As an article in Qiushi, the party’s main theoretical journal, put it earlier this year: “there is no 99.9% loyalty. It is 100% pure and absolute loyalty and nothing less.” Institutions that fail to reach the required levels of groveling feel the consequences. Xi has emasculated the Communist Youth League, once an influential group and the road to power for his prime minister, Li Keqiang, and his predecessor as China’s leader, Hu. Calling it out of touch, bureaucratic and arrogant, he demoted its chief, jailed one of the top officials and dismantled the league’s school.
The party has to be knocked into shape, in Xi’s view, because he wants to double down on its control. Party members in companies—including joint ventures with foreigners—have started to claim the right to approve investment decisions. Academics, once permitted a limited freedom of inquiry, now find it impossible to conduct research into sensitive subjects, such as the Cultural Revolution. State-owned newspapers have been told bluntly that their job is to serve the party. It always was, of course, but previous governments had also encouraged them to report unwelcome facts. Xi has also cracked down on anything that might remotely challenge the party’s monopoly of power, arresting human-rights lawyers by the score and passing a new law to make life harder for charities.
Predicting the future of China
Xi’s face now graces the front page of every paper in the country, while his exploits and directives headline each night’s evening news.
Dictators are always arrogant. Dictatorship is a disaster for political civilization and detrimental to genuine human development and survival.
Communism is linked with totalitarianism and dictatorship. But the dictatorship of poor and common people is positive trend. President Xi is not entirely a dictator like say Trump or Netanyahu.
This is the first time that a top power like China has named its ruler the permanent one with immediate effect.
China has elevated the stature of President Xi Jinping and cemented his grip on power by including his name and political ideology in the Communist Party constitution. The move puts Xi on par with Chairman Mao Zedong who founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who oversaw China’s opening up to the world.
The Chinese leadership defended the move, with Xi telling a group of delegates from the southern province of Guangdong that the constitutional amendments reflected “the common will of the party and people.” Repealing presidential term limits was “an important measure for perfecting the system of the party and the state,” the party’s People Daily newspaper said in a commentary published, citing the lesson of the Soviet Union’s collapse.
China has not only elevated the stature of President Xi Jinping and but also cemented his grip on power by including his name and political ideology in the Communist Party constitution.
China’s previous two presidents, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, haven’t had their names enshrined in the constitution in this way. Xi Jinping now has an institutional guarantee of support. He can be emperor for life — staying in power as long as his health allows. Xi looks set to emerge from the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China stronger than ever, both domestically and on the international stage.
Chinese parliament vote allowed President Xi Jinping to retain power indefinitely in a formal break from succession rules set up after Mao Zedong’s turbulent rule. The vote — never in doubt — gives Xi more time to enact plans to centralize party control, increase global clout and curb financial and environmental risks. It also ties the world’s most populous country more closely to the fate of a single man than at any point since reformer Deng Xiaoping began establishing a system for peaceful power transitions in the aftermath of Mao’s death.
Every leader since Mao has wrestled with questions about the Communist Party’s legitimacy, and Xi is no exception. For years, economic growth provided the party’s “mandate of heaven”. But growth is slowing, inequality is rising, and middle-class concerns about housing, education and health care cannot be allayed by ladling on an extra point of GDP.
In 1980 Deng Xiaoping gave a speech to the Politburo in which he called for a clearer separation between party and state, gave warning against concentrating too much authority in one person. Xi is rejecting all of Deng’s good advice. He himself might benefit. But China might not.
Xi has presided over a tough crackdown on civil society and freedom of speech that belies the chummy image – and he tolerates no ridicule or slander of his person. There are clear signs that Xi Jinping was planning to cement his grip on China.
The Communist Party’s power-broking congress in October confirmed Xi’s induction into the leadership pantheon alongside Mao and market reformer Deng Xiaoping by writing his name and political ideology into the party’s constitution.
Still, the proposal to repeal term limits prompted unusually open expressions of dissent. The move made China vulnerable to repeating the power struggles of past eras. It planted the seeds for China to once again fall into turmoil.
President Xi Jinping is moving ahead with his career plan in a systematic manner. In his first five years, he has seized control of economic policy, reasserted the Communist Party’s authority and sidelined potential rivals in an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign. Now, he’s set to make the Xi era permanent.
As the undisputed ruler of one-fifth of humanity, Xi is arguably the world’s most powerful leader. US President Donald Trump is battling investigations, Germany’s Angela Merkel is nursing a fragile coalition and Russia’s Vladimir Putin is struggling under sanctions. Xi, meanwhile, laid out a 30-year plan in October for a “New Era” that completes China’s restoration among the world’s great powers. The others are managing countries for a while — he’s trying to build a new one. He’s got vastly more freedom of action than Trump and Merkel, a vastly stronger economy than Putin, but also probably a more daunting job than any of them — higher expectations.
The changes are so sweeping they might be seen as a turning point, with Xi officially remaking the party-state with himself at the center. The changes leave Xi with sole responsibility for China’s $12 trillion economy, mounting debt pile, more aspirational middle class and growing overseas interests. He’s attempting to become a developed economy without loosening political control, staking the party’s legitimacy on its ability to make China rich and strong.
China has cracked down on online criticism of Xi’s power play, even as shares of companies with “king” or “emperor” in their names surged after the amendment was unveiled. Still, the proposal to repeal term limits prompted unusually open expressions of dissent. Li Datong, a former senior editor at the official China Youth Daily newspaper, said made China vulnerable to repeating power struggles of the past.
Disappointed that China is not going the Soviet way of disintegration, USA is deeply worried that it is unable to control the presidential poll in Russia and stop Xi from becoming the permanent president of China. Before the vote in Beijing, Donald Trump, maybe disappointed that his country does not have provisions to let him be the permanent US president, had joked that Xi was “now president for life”.
The US global dictator Donald Trump has celebrated Xi Jinping’s bid to shepherd China back into an era of one-man dictatorship in China, suggesting the USA might one day “give that a shot”. In fact, Trump praises Xi Jinping’s power grab and admires Xi’s power play.
The so-called “Liberals” have condemned the ‘power grab’ in Beijing, which will almost certainly be approved by members of the National People’s Congress. The topic of Xi’s power grab is so politically sensitive within China that nearly all of the academics approached by the Guardian for comment in the lead-up to congress declined to talk.
Some experts have criticized the move as the amendment paves the way for Xi to be China’s ruler-for-life. “This is a critical moment in China’s history,” Cheng Li, said a prominent expert in elite Chinese politics who has criticised the move. Western experts say they are convinced Xi’s plan is to rule for many years to come.
Apparently, President Xi has no plan to uproot the Socialist system as Russians have done hurriedly or disband the communist agenda of the regime.
Globally, the world now would likely to see China continue to step into a global leadership vacuum as the USA turns inward and far away under President Donald Trump. An expert says domestically it’s about tightening Communist Party control over all aspects of Chinese life in the internet age.
While Russia dismantled Socialism and communism and opted to join the US led capitalist nations, China retained its socialist character and adopted gradual transformation to capitalism by adopting convergence method by which both capitalism and capitalism coexist No one can say China is a communist nation or a capitalist outfit.
In fact, convergence has percolated conveniently into Chinese system and society a long time ago. Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has long been used to describe how Marxism has been adapted for China. The term was closely associated with Deng Xiaoping as a way to promote economic development.