The epithet has gone beyond the merely metaphorical. Xi Jinping is now China’s “President for life” with Sunday’s overwhelming vote to scrap the two-term limit and thus amend the Constitution, and add clauses to strengthen the party’s dominant role in politics and matters of state.
Only two “no” votes were cast, with three abstentions and one vote invalidated, from almost 3,000 delegates in parliament. Ergo, in terms of domination over the government, party and the military, there is no mistaking that Xi is now on the same pedestal as Mao Zedong was till he passed away in 1976.
Considering that the country boasts a rubber-stamp Parliament, legislative endorsement of the President’s signal of intent, made barely three weeks ago, was only to be expected.
Visuals of the standing ovation by delegates as Xi stepped into the Great Hall of the People made it pretty obvious that the Head of State would be at the helm for life… and not till 2023, as scheduled.
Small wonder that the momentous development to end presidential term-limits has swiftly been banned by the democratic West, which has drawn parallels with North Korea.
It has even suggested that a Mao-type personality cult was germinating. A crucial difference must be that Xi has trimmed the ideological sails to the winds of change, pre-eminently with the endorsement of market economy at the party’s Third Plenum.
Beijing has been equally prompt in debunking the Western praxis of governance ~ “In these years we have seen the rise and decline of countries and particularly the harsh reality that the Western political system doesn’t apply to developing countries and produces dreadful results.” The change has almost immediately ignited a bout of shadow-boxing over the monolithic leadership riveted to an individual… and for life.
More accurately, Xi has effected a dramatic swing back from Deng Xiaoping’s praxis of “collective leadership” ~ a concept that is closer to the democratic construct and one that must now lapse in the limbo of history. Indeed, the history of China, as scripted by Xi, has entered a new and, thus far, unpredictable phase.
On closer reflection, it is early days to hazard a guess in the manner of the Jeremiah or even to greet the change with an overdose of heady optimism. In point of fact, both forebodings and optimism have been manifest over the past 72 hours.
In the immediate perspective, Xi has lent more power to his elbow to countenance political challenges, chiefly the democratic dissenters, the restive ethnicity, and detractors within the party. The party-state structure of governance is mired in inertia and corruption.
The leader-for-life has arrogated to himself a formidable responsibility in terms of the country’s economy, foreign policy, and also, of course, the course of Communism ~ the bedrock of the structure of governance.
In the net, an omnipotent ruler will now run an increasingly powerful country… and indefinitely so. The socialist oligarchy has assumed a monarchical dimension.