The Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) voted on Sunday to remove presidential term limits, allowing President Xi Jinping to indefinitely rule.
Xi, 64, assumed office in 2013 and was expected to step down at the end of his second term in 2022. However, this new amendment permits him to stay in power for the foreseeable future.
He also serves as the general secretary for the Communist Party of China and as the head of the military, implementing positions without term limits. By concurrently serving in all three roles, Xi has a significant amount of essentially unopposed power in the world’s most populous country.
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While this announcement surprised many experts on China, Xi previously has pursued efforts to increase his influence, including elevating himself to the ideological authority of Mao Zedong.
According to the New York Times, the Xi administration has spent considerable energy promoting China’s position as a global power.
U.S. officials seemed to react with little concern. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the removal of term limits was “a decision for China to make about what’s best for their country.”
President Donald Trump told Republican donors in a fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago estate he thought it was “great” that Xi could potentially be president for the remainder of his life. He then joked about himself trying to become president for life, which spurred media attention and public ire.
In China, there was some resistance on social media following the announcement that Xi could remain president for the rest of his life. However, these reactions were swiftly censored.
“(Xi) is a person that’s really good at making himself famous,” said Helen, a Chinese student at the University of Dayton China Institute (UDCI).
Helen said Xi is popular in China but that some people disapprove of his recent political actions.
“Many people actually figured out he is trying to use this to build up a kind of worship of himself,” she said. “Some people are against him for this reason.”
Zack Kier, a sophomore political science and international relations double major from Canisius College studying abroad at UDCI, agreed that many Chinese individuals seem concerned about the removal of presidential term limits.
But Kier doesn’t think this will greatly affect U.S. and China’s relations.
“Frankly, the U.S. doesn’t care who the leader is as long as China keeps producing the goods America cares about,” he said.
Helen expressed a similar opinion.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Frayer/Getty Images.