Given how over 70% of the members of the NPC are members of the Communist Party of China that is headed by Xi, voting on the amendment is expected to be a mere formality.
Everybody knows how far China is from real democracy. Therefore, president Xi Jinping seeking lifelong presidency without actually saying as much—the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s apex law making body will vote soon on to amend the constitution to abolish the two-term limit on presidency—isn’t as shocking as it is being made out to be in the Western media. Given how over 70% of the members of the NPC are members of the Communist Party of China that is headed by Xi, voting on the amendment is expected to be a mere formality. But, when NPC does vote in the amendment, it will have taken China back to the Mao Zedong days. The two-term limit was introduced as China realised the dangers of dictatorship after the excesses of the Cultural Revolution.
The news has been downplayed in the Chinese media and the country’s infamous Great Firewall is in force, to cleanse the internet of anything that could spur criticism of the move, let alone actual criticism. Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, is censoring content to delete phrases such as “serving another term”, “amendment to the constitution,etc. The crackdown on free speech was already severe. With the constitutional amendment expected soon, the crackdown will get harsher, and when Xi ascends, with a “glorious leader” or some similar pompous epithet, expect the curbs to become harsher. Xi, who swears by constitutionalism, is willing to use the constitution as a tool to legitimise his rule as he drums up support by weaving nationalism and the Communist Party together in the popular imagination. Xi, undoubtedly, has presided over a surge in Chinese influence in geopolitics. Which is why not just state leaders, but corporate leaders who are vocal advocates of free-market economics are willing to bend. He already brooks no challenge to his leadership, and by positioning himself in the ideological likeness of Mao, he is likely to rule for the remainder of his active life. Having accepted China’s role as a global leader and champion of globalisation as the US exits, it is also unlikely Xi will do a full-Mao, the brutality of the Cultural Revolution and all. Still, so much concentration of power at the hands of one individual is not healthy for China and the rest of the world.