China makes way for Xi Jinping to rule country for life

What Xi Jinping's power play means for China's economy

Chinese politicians have voted to abolish presidential term limits paving the way for leader Xi Jinping to rule for life.

The 64-year-old Xi, already hailed as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, last week gave a ringing endorsement to the proposed constitutional changes, calling them a reflection of the "common will of the party and the people".

Officials have said the elimination of presidential term limits is aimed only at bringing the office of the president in line with Xi's other positions atop the Communist Party and the Central Military Commission, which do not impose term limits.

Only two of 2,964 votes were cast against the change.

The National People's Congress passed the historic constitutional amendments with 2,958 votes in favour, only two against, and three abstentions.

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The move has been met with an unusually high amount of criticism in China.

His predecessors - Jiang Zemin who was in power from 1993 to 2003 and Hu Jintao from 2003 to 2013 - stepped down as the General Secretary of the party as well as president after a widely followed rule as well as a convention of two terms to promote collective leadership system in the one-party state.

China's plan for President Xi Jinping to remain in office sets off an outcry online with bloggers drawing comparisons to North Korea's ruling dynasty and other dictators.

The package of amendments included major provisions to inscribe Xi's eponymous political mantra in the constitution, give the Communist Party an even larger role in the country's affairs and expand the president's anti-corruption campaign.

This Constitutional amendment paves the way for Xi Jinping to stay on as president until he dies, if he wishes to do so. While the title of "core" leader puts Xi on par with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, the litmus test for Xi would be ensuring economic stability throughout China and prevail through the economic muddle, given that China's unsteady economic growth rate is becoming progressively hard to predict with precision.

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"The greatest strength of the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the CPC", said Cao Qingyao, an NPC deputy and a district Party chief of Chongqing Municipality. Party spokespeople reject such talk, insisting Xi is the core of its seven-member Standing Committee, not a lone strongman.

The Communist Party's dominance over all aspects of society has been Xi's aim for years, as outlined by his close ally, Wang Qishan, who used to head the feared anti-graft commission.

Former state newspaper editor Li Datong wrote that scrapping term limits for the president and vice-president would sow the seeds of chaos - in a message sent to some members of the national congress.

Schoolchildren, college students and staff at state factories will have to study the political ideology, which the Communist Party is trying to portray as a new chapter for modern China. Trump is actually not the first president to have raised the issue of lifting presidential term limits; fellow Republican Ronald Reagan also did the same (though only after leaving the presidency and not at the start of his first term).

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