Beijing, March 11 (IANS) In a historic decision, China on Sunday removed the two-term limit on presidency and vice presidency, clearing the decks for the all-powerful President Xi Jinping to rule the world’s most populous country indefinitely.
Scrapping the 35-year-old rule brought by “paramount” leader Deng Xiaoping to prevent the country from returning to one-man rule like that of Mao Zedong, China’s largely ceremonial parliament — the National People’s Congress — amended the Constitution by lifting the limit.
Of the 2,963 lawmakers, only three abstained and two voted against the amendment, proposed by the powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party in last February.
Never has China’s parliament said no to a diktat by the party — the country’s real boss.
With the term limit gone, Xi, 64, can rule China until he retires, dies or is ousted.
He is already dubbed as the country’s next Mao — the founder of modern China who ruled from 1949 until his death in 1976.
Besides, the legislature also approved the amendment to add Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics into the Constitution, an honour only given to Mao and Deng.
China watchers say the country, which has a one-party rule, could well be headed for a single-man rule.
Xi, who succeeded Hu Jintao in 2012 as General Secretary of the Communist Party, became China’s President a year later.
Over the years, Xi has come to hold a vice-like grip on China. Of the 200-member Central Committee, the majority is said to be close to him.
In the Xi-headed 25-member Politburo – the second most powerful body in China – 14 are believed to be his supporters.
Wang Qishan, the dreaded anti-graft czar and Xi’s go-to, is likely to be appointed the Vice President.
Besides being the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Xi is the Chairman of the Central Military Commission — the supreme body of the Chinese army.
Although the post of General Secretary is more powerful than that of the President in China, the latter is used to deal with the outside world.
Mao set up the President’s office in 1954 and quit the post after five years, giving it to Liu Shaoqi, handpicked by him. Liu was a puppet President and fell out of favour during Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
Mao did away with the President’s post in 1975 only to be revived by Deng in 1982 with a two-term cap after his death.
Currently and in the near future, there seems no leader who could challenge a towering Xi.
Both the dissenters and rising politicians have either fallen in line or are behind the bars apparently on graft charges.
There is no room for dissent in Xi’s era, with a heavy censor on the media and civil society.
Xi had made his intention to stay in power beyond 2023 sort of known when he did not name his successor at the party’s key once-in-five-year meet last October.
His predecessors, Hu and Jiang Zemin, had conventionally announced their successors.
Xi’s move was widely speculated as his desire to cling to power beyond 10 years, but little was anticipated of the proposal in this regard that came like a bolt from the blue last month.
This has startled the global community.
On the global stage, Xi holds a reputation.
The leader of the world’s second-largest economy arguably enjoys more clout than US President Donald Trump who has been ridiculed or slammed home and abroad for his theatrics and controversial decisions.
Trump once described Xi as the “most powerful leader” China has had in a century.
Under his signature Belt and Road project, China has invested billions of dollars in building highways, ports and railways in several countries.
Although India has opposed the initiative, China claims to have the support of over 100 countries.
Under Xi, China has made deep inroads into South Asia, a sphere of influence of India.
It is building infrastructure projects worth over $50 billion in Pakistan and has also taken a key Sri Lankan port on a 99-year lease.
It pipped India to provide internet services to Nepal and has key projects in the Maldives.