March 18, 2018

Chinese censors move to block ridicule of 'Emperor' Xi Jinping's power grab

02 March 2018, 06:23 | Christie Tate

China is all set to amend its constitution making Xi Jinping eligible for third term as president

Xi Jinping China

The proposed change to the country's constitution, which was announced on Sunday by the Central Committee of China's Communist Party, would appear to signal that President Xi not only wants to stay in power, but has, unlike his predecessors, accumulated enough power to be able to change the rules in order to keep it. "Papa Xi" as he is referred to in official songs, was already the most powerful leader of the country since Mao Zedong, and by consolidating his power, he has developed a reputation of a strongman in the mold of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

To be sure, a lifetime rule for the Chinese President is a step backward in terms of political reform, even as China has made strides in economic reform by embracing the market economy, or "socialism with Chinese characteristics" as the official ideology is called.

The Global Times also argued that "the change doesn't mean that the Chinese president will have a lifelong tenure" and warned against the effects of "misinformation and external forces' meddling" on public opinion in China.

The Guardian reported that the English newspaper China Daily, an worldwide voice for the affairs in Beijing, said the move was "necessitated by the need to ideal the party and the state leadership system".

The question remains whether China is set to repeat past mistakes where unquestioning observance to its leadership contributed to disasters like the Great Leap Forward of the 1950s and Cultural Revolution a decade later.

For President Xi, managing expectations will be hard as China consolidates its economic growth while facing a growing appetite for political and social freedoms to match the new levels of prosperity. He became the first leader since Deng Xiaoping to be addressed as "core leader" and since Mao Zedong to be publicly hailed as "chairman" by the PLA officers.

Next two presidents of China, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jinato served as president for two terms each between 1993 and 2013 when Xi Jinping assumed the office of President of China.

Or for as long as he lives.

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Xi's status as a potential "leader for life" is not completely unexpected. Beijing has ramped up censorship and clamped down on dissent since Xi, 64, took power in late 2012, coupled with incessant trolling of Western democracy as unstable, unpredictable and unable to deliver the goods. That's a real risk in a country whose economic growth figures are already largely discredited, and where Mao was told grain production was booming during a starvation that killed tens of millions of people.

Xi provided a major hint that he meant to stay in power when no heir apparent was anointed at the five-yearly party congress in October.

But this change has put to rest the speculation. Xi became vice president in 2008 and was given a top spot in the powerful Central Military Commission in 2010.

In Chinese politics, the role of president is largely ceremonial. The implication was that this would hold true for the far more important position of party leader. Observers should also recall that on January 29, top Xi ally and anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan was given a clear shot at the vice presidency when he was named a deputy to the NPC from Hunan province, an appointment that would have been deemed unusual in previous years given his retirement age of 69.

"So in the next five years, the president may be given more substantial power, and we are likely to see that in future constitutional amendments". If and when things go south, the economy slows further and the massive debt that China's state-owned firms have amassed begins to cause a cascade of defaults and bankruptcies, Xi will be right in the crosshairs of his many political enemies and perhaps protesters on the street.

Limits were introduced more than 30 years ago ostensibly to prevent a repeat of the Mao dictatorship.

It is true that even democratic countries such as the United States has had issues with succession as well. "It will enable him to move more boldly and increases the risk of his acting arbitrarily and perhaps mistakenly in global relations".

"A person with enormous emotional stability who does not allow his personal misfortunes or sufferings affect his judgment". He cited Liu He, Xi's top economic adviser, who is meeting US officials in Washington this week to discuss economic relations amid disputes over steel, technology and other issues.

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