China’s National People’s Congress meets today to approve the removal of constitutional term limits for President Xi Jinping. It follows a period of deliberation, which looked set to highlight the beginning of internal opposition to such a move.
The presidency is largely ceremonial, with the two offices of General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission holding the most significant power and already being without term limits. However, the move to eliminate presidential term-limits, which were designed to prevent the rise of centralized rule under another Mao-like figure, is seen as a way to finish Xi’s consolidation of power that began over five years ago.
China’s state security apparatus has been working overtime to stamp out domestic criticism. Independent journalists have been threatened with arrest, and regional Communist Party branches have been cracking down on lawyers and community groups that have expressed minor forms of opposition.
Despite these reforms sparking the first significant internal and public criticism of the president, expect the congress to approve the reform by a wide margin. Watch public responses to the reforms closely for signs of wider national discontent over Xi’s actions.
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Kai looks at security and political turbulence in the emerging market economies and also serves as a publisher with The Daily Brief.