China has removed presidential term limits from its constitution on Sunday, March 11, 2018, giving President Xi Jinping the power to remain in office indefinitely, and confirming his status as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong died more than 40 years ago.
China’s ruling Communist Party announced the proposed amendment only last month and there was never any doubt it would pass as parliament is packed with loyal party members who would not have opposed the proposal.
The amendments also include inserting Xi’s political theory into the constitution, something that was already added to the party charter in October at the end of a party congress, a feat no other leader since Mao had managed while in office. Additionally, clauses were included to give a legal framework to a new super anti-corruption department.
Only two “no” votes were cast, with three abstentions, from almost 3,000 delegates.
Reporters were briefly ushered from the main hall in the Great Hall of the People as delegates filled in their ballot papers, but allowed in to see them placing the papers, one by one, into large red ballot boxes around the room.
Xi cast his vote first, on the podium at the front of the hall, followed in turn by the other six members of the party’s elite Standing Committee, which runs China.
The room erupted into loud applause when the result of the vote was passed, though Xi did not address parliament.
The limit of two five-year presidential terms was written into China’s constitution in 1982 after Mao’s death six years earlier by Deng Xiaoping, who recognized the dangers of one-man rule and the cult of personality after the chaos of the Cultural Revolution and instead espoused collective leadership.
Speaking later to reporters, Shen Chunyao, chairman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of parliament’s standing committee, dismissed concerns the move could risk a return to strongman rule or lead to political turmoil or infighting.
In the past nine decades of the party’s history it has overcome hardships and resolved major problems, including orderly leadership transitions and keeping the party and country’s vitality and long-term stability, he added.
“In the nearly 40 years of reform and opening up, we have successfully established, upheld and expanded the political development road of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” Shen said.
“So, going forward the road we are on will definitely be longer and wider, and the future brighter and brighter.”
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