China scraps two-term limit, makes Xi President for life

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Applause greets Chinese President Xi Jinping as he arrives for the National People's Congress plenary session before the vote on the constitutional amendments at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday.

Voting by the National People's Congress' almost 3,000 hand-picked delegates began in the mid-afternoon, with Xi leading members of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) seven-member all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee in casting their votes.

"We are increasingly confident that the key to China's path lies in upholding strong Party leadership and firmly following the leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core", it said.

The vote ends the system of collective leadership and succession introduced by former leader Deng Xiaoping after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 to stave off the dangers of a cult of personality.

In this context, allusion to a greater opening of China that Prime Minister Li Keqiang has included in his annual economic report to Communist Party congress this weekend sounds empty after silence in what is certainly more important to China's future: constitutional amendments.

China's ruling Communist Party proposed the amendment last month and there was never any doubt it would pass as parliament is packed with loyal party members who would not have opposed the proposal.

The country's presidency is a largely ceremonial office, but the constitutional limits meant Xi would have had to give it up in 2023.

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He also claimed that the amendments which will literally ensure a life term rule of the 64-year-old Xi was worked out after reaching a "high level of consensus" both in the CPC and the country.

In a sign of the issue's sensitivity, the government censors are aggressively scrubbing social media of expressions ranging from "I disagree" to "Xi Zedong". A number of prominent Chinese figures have publicly protested the move, despite the risk of retaliation.

China's National People's Congress voted Sunday to abolish presidential term limits. By putting his authority on every matter at the same time, Medeiros and Hirson said, Xi "is very vulnerable if he has one or many policy failures, and the knives are likely to come out quickly in such a scenario".

Critics of the move said that China shifted from "one-party rule" to essentially a "one-man rule".

In China, there was opposition to the change. Leading Chinese officials have repeatedly rejected any chance of adopting Western-style separation of powers or multiparty democracy. The current Constitution has been in place since 1982 and has undergone four amendments in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004.

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"He wants to prevent power from falling into the hands of technocrats like Jiang (Zemin) and Hu (Jintao)", Wu said, referring to Xi's two predecessors.