China begins legal overhaul to remove Xi Jinping’s presidential term limits

China's President Xi Jinping claps after his speech as he and other new Politburo Standing Committee members meet with the press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China has announced that it is altering its constitution to remove the two-term limit on its presidency, effectively making its current leader, Xi Jinping, its lifelong ruler. The move, which was announced by China’s state-run news agency on Chinese New Year, was predicted since the Communist Party Congress in October, where Xi failed to appoint his successor.

During a two-week session that will begin Monday, China’s parliament is expected to begin enacting sweeping legislative changes that would allow Xi to stay in power indefinitely, as well as give him even greater control over the country’s money and power.

Aside from demolishing the presidential term limits, the legal overhauls are expected to create a powerful new agency that would govern officials and make changes in their $43 trillion finance and insurance sector. Xi is also planning to use the National People’s Congress’ annual meeting in order to appoint allies in key government positions, including the vice president, the central bank chief, and dozens of ministry-level positions.

With the removal of his presidential term limits and his name being written into the Chinese constitution, Xi has become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, the founder of Communist China, and one of the most powerful leaders in the present day. Xi has consolidated power in the country and has seized control of its economic policy, asserted the authority of the Communist Party, while purging corrupt officials from the party.

Signs of public discomfort have appeared online following the news. Baidu, China’s version of Google, showed that there was a spike in searches for the term “emigration.” However, China’s censors immediately took action, banning the search, alongside other terms that were considered too sensitive or too critical, like “tenure” and “constitution.”

“I personally think the impact is negative,” said Yang Xiaohui, a retired professor from Peking University’s School of International Studies. “[Xi] wants to stay in power for a very long time. The most important driving force is himself.”