China revisits laws to allow longer presidential terms

By William Feola
On March 21, 2018

Photo courtesy of Antilong, Wikipedia

China has revised their constitution and approved a plan to abolish presidential term limits, allowing current President Xi Jinping to remain in office for life.

China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s national legislative body, voted almost unanimously to approve the change, which now allows Xi to serve past 2023, the year he was supposed to leave office.

Out of the 2,964 votes counted, only two delegates voted against the move and three abstained, which shows the overwhelming support, or more likely, the minimal opposition to Jinping’s push to rule to rule for life, according to an article done by CNN.

After imposing a two-term limit for their presidents in the 1990s, China made the controversial change after the Chinese Communist Party proposed the change in February and Xi failed to name a potential successor during the October Communist Party Congress, defying the political tradition that had been in place for years.

The change was justified by the Communist Party, who claimed that it was necessary to abolish the presidential limit because it is a necessity to align the presidency with Xi’s other powerful posts, the heads of the party and the military, two posts who also have no term limits, according to CNN.

The president, someone who is considered as possibly the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong gave an endorsement to the change, saying that it is a reflection of the “common will of the party and the people.”

This endorsement and change didn’t reflect everyone’s views however, considering there was dissent and controversy in the country, something that doesn’t happen often in China.

Ex-state newspaper editor Li Datong, formerly of the state-run China Youth Daily newspaper and one of the few voices of open opposition, said that allowing Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely will be seen by historians as a “farce”, according to BBC, and that wasn’t all he had to say. Online censors in China have been blocking discussion about the topic but that hasn’t stopped people, especially Datong, from speaking their minds.

"As a Chinese citizen, I have to fulfill my responsibility and tell the delegates my opinion. I don't care what these delegates will do. It's not like the whole country agrees with the amendment, but everyone has been silenced,” said Datong. "I couldn't bear it anymore. I was discussing with my friends and we were enraged. We have to voice our opposition.”

While Xi has fought corruption in his country and led China to become a regional superpower, he has taken away emerging freedoms, increasing its state surveillance and censorship programs, and him staying in office for life raises a lot of concern for me.

People who tend to stay in power for long periods of time are not beneficial in the long run. They want to have all of the power, they want to fuel their own political agenda and often times people who don’t agree with them are either killed or imprisoned.

I’m not sure if that’s what will happen in China, but the risks outweigh the benefits and unfortunately, with the government and powerful officials in control the Chinese people have no choice but to follow what they say. We just have to hope that Xi continues to use his power to continue to lead the country and benefit the people, not himself and his political allies.

 

wfeola@ramapo.edu

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