What is Behind the Extension of China’s Presidential Term Limits?

What is Behind the Extension of China’s Presidential Term Limits?
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AP Photo/ Ahmed OmarOpinion19:43 26.02.2018Get short URL
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The Central Committee of China’s Communist Party has proposed extending presidential and vice presidential tenures, and with good reason, RIA Novosti contributor Irina Alksnis writes shedding light on the risks and threats in the way of China’s economic and political transition.

China’s ruling Communist Party’s proposal to scrap presidential term limits has nothing to do with “usurpation of power,” Russian political analyst Irina Alksnis writes for RIA Novosti, explaining why the move is vitally needed for the People’s Republic political system.

“China is undergoing a transition period which is very dangerous in all aspects: from the economic (the exhaustion of explosive economic growth and the need to switch to a new development model) to the geopolitical (the country’s bid for global superpower status requires more and more support),” Alksnis writes.

According to the political analyst, under these circumstances the sustainability of the country’s political system and its leadership has taken on a new significance.

On the other hand, the situation is complicated by the fact that over the previous few decades, favorable conditions for corruption were created and the emergence of untouchable elite groups, she noted. There is yet another problem, the analyst added: Since China’s entering the global market four decades ago a considerable part of Chinese elites has become more loyal to the West rather than to its own country.

To tackle this challenge the Chinese leadership has to force the elite to repatriate its capital while at the same time fighting corruption on a phenomenal scope, she stressed.

On January 24 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee and the State Council issued a document calling for “an anti-corruption and anti-gang crime campaign.”

The document envisages a crackdown on officials at all levels who provide “protective umbrellas” for China’s local mafias. Commenting on the issue, Bangkok-based geopolitical analyst Anthony Cartalucci opined that Beijing is seeking to further consolidate its power.

“[Beijing] cannot afford to have corruption-driven political power run out of control at a local, regional, or national level — the stability of China as a nation depends on it,” the geopolitical analyst told Sputnik, adding that China is “an immense nation in terms of geographical area and in terms of population.”

It is not the first time Xi Jinping has declared war on corruption: the Chinese president launched his first anti-graft measures in 2012.

According to Alksnis, Xi runs a certain risk by targeting the established status quo and the rules of the game set by Chinese elites. She noted that under Xi the news about top-ranking corrupt officials’ standing trials have become commonplace.

The political analyst explained that within the 10-year timeframe the Chinese president would be unable to accomplish his task. Furthermore his opponents could have tried to take revenge which would have dealt a blow not only to the president but to the system in general.

“Judging from the latest news, the Chinese leadership decided to cut the Gordian knot radically, eliminating the problem by scrapping the restriction on occupying top positions in the state for only two five-year tenures,” Alksnis noted, suggesting that “this will allow the ruling elite of China to lead the country through a very dangerous period, implementing the policy that they believe to be optimal.”

However, the recent measure poses its own hidden challenges and threats, she remarked, adding that the new system has yet to prove its efficiency. 

According to Alksnis, the two-term restriction was introduced by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (1978-1987) and served as one of the main foundations of the Chinese state-political system in recent decades. This principle was enshrined in the country’s Constitution in 1982.

“Its significance was obvious — to avoid the excessive concentration of power in the hands of a single group and the usurpation of authority, as well as all its negative consequences,” the political analyst stressed.

On Sunday, the Central Committee of China’s Communist Party proposed amending the country’s constitution by eliminating the paragraph saying that the chairman and vice-chairman of the People’s Republic of China “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms,” Xinhua reported.

The move prompted some Western analysts to suggest that China’s ruling party has “set the stage for President Xi Jinping to stay in office indefinitely.” Under the present Constitution, Xi, who assumed the presidency in 2013, has to step down in 2023.

The aforementioned amendments are likely to be mulled over in early March, during the first session of the National People’s Congress of the 13th convocation.

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