Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, released the full text of a proposal by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to remove the clause stating that the President and Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms” from the country’s Constitution. The release of the news caused a great stir, resulting in extensive coverage by the media both inside and outside of China.
In the announcement from February 25, Xinhua News reported that the CPC Central Committee’s proposal to amend the Constitution will mark the fifth time the current Chinese Constitution has been amended since it was implemented, with the last change taking place in 2004.
In Article 14 of the proposal for the constitutional amendment, it shows that Paragraph 3 of Article 79 of the Constitution currently states:
“The term of office of the President and Vice President of the People’s Republic of China is the same as that of the National People’s Congress, and they shall serve no more than two consecutive terms”.
This would be amended to read:
“The term of office of the President and Vice President of the People’s Republic of China is the same as that of the National People’s Congress”.
The difference of only 10 words means that the establishment of the system of term limits for the office of President and Vice President that has existed since Deng Xiaoping’s time would be invalidated.
The sudden announcement, combined with the third plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee held from February 26 to 28 in Beijing, is considered a landmark in Xi Jinping’s era. The news was widely reported by media around the world.
After the news was released, Reuters immediately issued a long report with the headline: China Sets Stage for Xi to Stay in Office Indefinitely.
In the report, it was stated that:
“Constitutional reform needs to be approved by parliament, which is stacked with members chosen for their loyalty to the party — meaning the reform will not be blocked”.
There have been rumors that Xi Jinping wants to break through the limitation of two terms so he can remain in office after his second term expires.
Does the CPC’s proposal to amend the constitution mean that Xi Jinping will assume the presidency indefinitely? The question remains to be answered.
Reaction from various media outlets
The New York Times: “China Moves to Let Xi Stay in Power by Abolishing Term Limit”
The Wall Street Journal: “China’s Communist Party Proposal Sets Stage for Xi to Hold On to Power”
Fox News: “China’s Communist Party Paves Way for Xi Jinping to Extend Rule Beyond 2 Terms״
CNN: “China to Drop Presidential Term Limits, Clearing Way for Xi Jinping to Stay On”
Time Weekly: “Proposal to Scrap China’s Term Limits Could Allow President Xi Jinping to Stay in Office”
British Reuters: “China Sets the Stage for Xi to Stay in Office Indefinitely”
News Tribune: “Move to Extend Chinese Leader’s Role Fuels Business Anxiety”
France 24: “The New Mao? China to Lift Term Limits for President Xi Jinping”
Japan Asahi Shimbun: “China’s Top Paper Says Reform Does Not Mean Life–Long Presidency”
The Associated Press quoted Hu Xingdou, a Beijing political commentator, as saying:
“Although Xi Jinping may need one or two additional terms to implement his plan, it is unlikely that China will return to the era of having a president for life.”
He went on to say that:
“President Xi may hold a leadership position for a considerable period of time, which is conducive to reform and to fighting corruption, but China will not return to lifetime tenure again.”
While reporting extensively on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s power grab, the world’s media also noted U.S.
President Trump’s reaction to the news during remarks at a Republican Party fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort where he said:
“Don’t forget China’s great and Xi is a great gentleman. He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”
It’s not totally clear whether the President was half-joking or not, as it was behind closed doors. (CNN obtained an audio recording of his remarks.) However, U.S. Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat, said on Twitter that:
“Whether this was a joke or not, talking about being President for life like Xi Jinping is the most un-American sentiment expressed by an American President. George Washington would roll over in his grave.”