Xi consolidates power to steer China’s transition

He can now serve as President indefinitely with him already wielding real power as the CPC’s General Secretary that has no term limit.

Updated - December 01, 2021 12:34 pm IST

Published - March 11, 2018 01:55 pm IST - BEIJING:

Chinese lawmakers on Sunday resoundingly endorsed changes in the constitution, which would empower President Xi Jinping to weather headwinds that challenge China’s new stage of transition.

Out of a total of 2,964 members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) who voted on constitutional amendments, only two opposed a proposal that removes the limit on the tenure of the President to two consecutive five year terms. There were three abstentions to the revision floated by the Communist Party of China (CPC).

He is lifetime President now

With the changes in China’s basic law, Mr. Xi can now serve as President indefinitely. He already wields real power as the CPC’s General Secretary — a post that has no term limit. Mr. Xi also heads the powerful Central Military Commission — the apex body that marshals the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Besides, lawmakers at the NPC, China’s parliament, also included Mr. Xi’s political doctrine – "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era," as part of the amended constitution. Prior to Mr. Xi, only the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, and late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping have their personal ideologies engraved in the Constitution.

The Constitutional change that entrenches Mr. Xi's power was a foregone conclusion. But going far beyond the mandatory two-thirds majority requirement, the near-unanimous vote conveys the impression of deep consensus within the establishment, for backing President Xi.

The 21 items in the Constitution that were revised include provisions for setting up a National Supervisory Commission --an overarching anti-corruption super agency.

New point of inflexion: analysts

Analysts say that Sunday’s voting marks a "new point of inflexion" in China’s four decades history of reforms, pioneered by Deng. "The amendment makes the next 15 years more predictable and strengthens China’s hand internationally,” says Beijing based political commentator Einar Tangen in a conversation with The Hindu .

With power fully consolidated, Mr. Xi can now stamp his authority on achieving the “two centenary” goals: making China a "moderately prosperous society" by 2020, serving as a platform for becoming an advanced socialist nation by 2050.

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But the Chinese leadership has to contend with serious immediate challenges including the possibility of a "hard landing" of its highly leveraged economy. China is currently facing a mounting debt crisis, a  property bubble as well as threat of capital flight.

Observers point out that sticking to the two-term limit, set by Deng, may no longer be relevant.

"The whole idea of putting up a term limit [set by] Deng Xiaoping - you should view it historically. Back in 1982, right after the 10 years of Cultural Revolution of Mao [had required] a sense of limit…to [an] individual’s power. It was then that Deng Xiaoping came up with the idea of the two term limit," China’s state television broadcaster CGTN quoted Yu Jie of the London School of Economics, as saying.

She added: “But now… you do need a furthering of stronger economic reform. You do need the furthering of a stronger agenda to run a country properly and therefore perhaps you do actually need a strong pair of hands to give a clear steer to the country.”

Anti-graft drive yet to settle

Others point out that that Mr. Xi’s anti-corruption campaign is still a work in progress, and needs time to settle. "Advancing reform has become more difficult, with entrenched interest groups resisting change. So the message to resistors is now this: get on the programme because you can’t outwit or outwait President Xi,” says political commentator Robert Lawrence Kuhn.

The constitution amendments also include enshrining the Party’s leading role in the country’s basic law. As a result any challenge to the CPC’s rule, now becomes legally unconstitutional.

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