Chinese parliament clears way for Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely

National People’s Congress gives 99.8 per cent approval for amendment

China’s president, Xi Jinping, is seen on a large screen over delegates as he joins a session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Sunday. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China’s president, Xi Jinping, is seen on a large screen over delegates as he joins a session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Sunday. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

 

China’s rubber-stamp parliament has cleared the way for Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely after it gave overwhelming approval for an historic constitutional amendment abolishing presidential term limits.

As expected, the measure was backed by a huge majority of the hand-picked delegates attending the National People’s Congress in the Great Hall of the People, with 2,958 in favour of the constitutional amendment, two opposing, three abstaining and one vote invalidated.

Mr Xi and the other members of the standing committee of the politburo placed their ballots in a red box on the centre of the stage in the vast red-flag-bedecked building.

The vote ends the system of collective leadership and succession introduced by former leader Deng Xiaoping after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 to stave off the dangers of a cult of personality.

It removes the barrier stopping Mr Xi (64) from remaining as leader after his second term ends in 2023 and puts him in what looks like an unassailable position at the helm of the world’s second-biggest economy.

There were some sceptical remarks made about the plan in the run-up to the vote, including comparisons with North Korea’s dynastic rule, and fears of concentrating too much power in one person, but the government responded with a propaganda push stressing Mr Xi’s central role in the party and the success of his policies.

The party’s official organ, People’s Daily, also said abolishing term limits did not mean lifelong terms.

Mr Xi said the amendments were the “common will of the party and the people”.

Popular decision

Delegates in attendance said during the week that the decision was popular with ordinary Chinese people.

The Xinhua news agency said on Sunday the revision “has won approval from both inside and outside the party, is of historic significance for ensuring prosperity and lasting security of both the party and the country”.

Mr Xi is also general secretary of the Communist Party and head of the military, neither of which have term limits, and the presidency is probably the third most important of the three positions.

As well as the vote abolishing term limits, the parliament also backed other constitutional amendments including the insertion of Mr Xi’s political theory – Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era – into the constitution and the establishment of a legal framework for a powerful new anti-corruption department.

The national supervision commission will consolidate existing anti-corruption activities, and this means that Mr Xi’s anti-graft campaign, which has netted 1.5 million corrupt cadres since 2102, will now become permanent.

Mr Xi’s second term as president is set to be confirmed at the end of the week.

Next week, Mr Xi’s former anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan is likely to be installed as vice-president with major responsibilities.