BEIJING – China has removed presidential term limits from its constitution, in a move that effectively allows Xi Jinping to remain as president for life.
The constitutional changes, passed by China’s annual sitting of the National People’s Congress on Sunday, confirm Xi’s status as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong died more than 40 years ago.
The amendments also include inserting Xi’s political theory into the constitution, something that was already added to the party charter in October at the end of a party congress, a feat no other leader since Mao had managed while in office. Additionally, clauses were included to give a legal framework to a new super anti-corruption department.
A total of 2,958 delegates at China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) voted for the measure on Sunday. Only two voted against and three abstained, signifying almost total loyalty to Mr Xi’s vision for strongman rule.
Xi cast his vote first, on the podium at the front of the hall, followed in turn by the other six members of the party’s elite Standing Committee, which runs China.
China had imposed a two-term limit on its president since the 1990s.
Xi, who would have been due to step down in 2023, defied the tradition of presenting a potential successor during October’s Communist Party Congress.
The 64-year-old swiftly consolidated power after taking over as party chief in late 2012, and quickly consolidated personal power while cementing China as the regional superpower.
He also fought corruption, punishing more than a million party members – which has helped his popularity among some.
He has amassed power the likes of which has not been seen since Chairman Mao Zedong.
Beijing has said lifting the term limits is about protecting the authority of the party with Xi at its center. The party’s official People’s Daily has said this does not mean life-long terms.
The Communist Party gave Xi the title of “core” leader in 2016, a significant strengthening of his position at the time.
While the presidency is important, Xi’s positions as head of the party and head of the military are considered more important, and these titles are always given first by state media. With the passage of the amendment, now none of the posts have formal term limits.