China's government proposed removing the presidency's two-term limit, thus allowing incumbent Xi Jinping to conceivably remain the country's leader indefinitely just like Mao was at one time. The announcement wasn't too much of a surprise for some observers who had predicted that something of the kind was in the works after President Xi didn't go through the traditional motions of indicating a possible successor during last year's National Congress of the Communist Party of China. This made many believe that he was planning a legal workaround to remain in office after his second term expires in 2023, breaking with a custom that's been in force for over three decades already since Chairman Mao's death.
The predictable avalanche of condemnation from Western academics and China watchers soon followed, all of whom expectedly alleged that President Xi was breaking his party's democratic norms and striving to become a dictator. Moreover, they negatively compared him to Chairman Mao in this sense, hinting that the profound domestic challenges that China experienced during his premiership might repeat themselves in the future. On the other hand, more objective analysts pointed to Beijing's desire to ensure continuity at all levels of the state as the People's Republic begins to execute its world-changing One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity that many believe will lay the physical groundwork for literally building the Multipolar World Order.
China's move correlates with the trend of countries looking to strong leadership to confront the challenges of these uncertain times, though President Xi will undoubtedly have more power than his Russian, American, and Turkish peers if the Communist Party's plans come to pass. Another related impression that the proposal leaves is that it continues the centralization tendency within China and the ruling party more specifically, which is why some people think that it's so controversial. Opponents fear that the country might lose its decision-making flexibility when it's needed the most, while proponents say that these steps actually free President Xi from being beholden to irrelevant political squabbling and backstage power games.
Dong Chao, Chinese political commentator, and Bevin Chu, former columnist on Sino-US relations for Lew Rockwell.com and Antiwar.com, who is also the son of TK Chu, former Vice Ambassador from the Republic of China to Saudi Arabia, join our discussion.
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