China : constitutional changes. Good news ?

Yesterday, China has approved the removal of term limits for its leader. It effectively allows Xi Jinping to remain as president for president. The constitutional changes were passed by China’s annual sitting of the National People’s Congress on Sunday. 

 

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Le président chinois Xi Jinping. (Source : Foreign Policy)

A quiet change 

The vote was regarded widely as a rubber-stamping exercise : 2 delegates voted against the change, and 3 abstained… out of 2,924 voters !

Since 1990, the country had imposed a 2 term limit on its presidents. But Xi Jinping, the actual president, who have been due to step down in 2023, defied the tradition of presenting a potential successor. Instead, he consolidated his political power as the party voted to enshrine his name and political ideology in the party’s constitution. As a consequence, it has elevated his status to the level of its founder, Mao Zedong.

In China the congress is the most powerful legislative body, similar to the parliament in other nations, but it was widely believed that it approves what it was told to. Indeed, there has been no national debate as to whether a leader should be allowed to stay on for as long as they choose. Quietly but surely, Xi Jinping has changed the way his country is governed, with himself well and truly at the core.

Xi for life ? 

Mr Xi became president in 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.

However, China has clamped down on many emerging freedoms, increasing its state surveillance and censorship programs. For instance, before the constitutional changes were passed, online censors in the country have been blocking discussion around the topic. State media have portrayed the changes as much-needed reform, but former state newspaper editor, Li Datong, has wrote a message to said his opposition and criticise Mr Xi’s politics. « I couldn’t bear it any more. The have to voice our opposition » he said to BBC Chinese. Critics also say Mr Xi has used the anti-corruption purge to sideline political rivals.

The international community has to keep an eye on China’s political changes. Little by little, the country is drowning itself in a new kind of dictatorship.

 

Source : BBC News 

Chloé LOURENÇO