China has never been what you’d call a democratic nation, in spite of normal sounding terms like “president” or “parliament.” But on March 11, the 3,000 person National People’s Congress voted nearly unanimously to remove the provision in their Constitution that would have prevented President Xi Jinping from being the leader of China after his term expires in 2023. Essentially he can now be leader for life.
After Mao Zedong’s turbulent rule in China, safeguards were put into place to provide a peaceful transition of power. Mao is said to have murdered 45 million people from 1958-1962 during the Communist “people’s revolution.” Today, there were 2,958 votes cast in favor of the removal of those safeguards, with only 2 dissenting votes and 3 abstentions.
The vote leaves China vulnerable to the horrific mistakes of the past. The National People’s Congress are the only ones who can vote for president. Ordinary people cannot do so.
“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.” Yanmei Xie, China policy analyst
Xi Jinping is now free to consolidate his Communist party power. His other titles, Commander in Chief of the military and Party leader are the real powers of Chinese politics. Neither position has a term limit. Now none of them do.
Bloomberg noted that the provision voted on today came as a package deal with these:
- Inserting Xi’s name alongside Mao’s and Deng’s
- Enshrining in law his principles for a more assertive foreign policy
- Creating 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
If China gets any more “aggressive” in foreign policy, the world could be in for a bumpy ride. Xi has overseen the creation of military bases in the South China Sea, and creating issues with currency manipulation, hacking, among other things. To those who think this vote has no effect on the United States, you might want to revisit some of the recent events regarding China.
You can more about Xi’s rise to “President for life” at this link.
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Featured photo: screenshot of Xi Jinping with the National People’s Congress