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It is the announcement that many were waiting for.
The Communist Party of China proposed to eliminate the two-term limit for the president, a measure that will allow the current president, Xi Jinping, to stay in power beyond his second term, which ends in 2023.
The proposal, announced on Sunday by the state agency Xinhua, has yet to be approved by the Chinese parliament.
But no one doubts the favorable vote of the National People’s Congress, which will begin a new session on the 5th of March.
After all, as explained by Celia Hatton, Asia Pacific’s editor of the World Service of the BBC, Xi Jinping, she has become the dominant figure in Chinese politics and counts on the loyalty of all the factions of the ruling party, the army and the business elite.
And that “has made him the most powerful leader in the country since Mao Zedong, ” says Hatton.
Xi’s photo – Hatton tells – appears regularly on posters throughout the country, and his authorized nickname – “Papa Xi” – appears on official songs.
It is estimated that last week some 800 million of his fellow citizens tuned in to the annual gala in celebration of the new Chinese lunar year, which also marked the beginning of the “new era of Chinese thought” promoted by Xi.
And if for decades, the Communist Party of China was the one that dominated life in the country, now it is Xi Jinping who occupies that place, overshadowing the party that brought him to power.
Man of changes
In the past, the man at the head of the party was in charge for a limited period of time and each leader obediently handed power to his successor after a decade.
“But Xi Jinping started to change things from the beginning of his term,” says Hatton.
Xi quickly promoted an anti-corruption campaign that disciplined more than one million members of the party for corruption, usually for accepting bribes or mismanagement of public resources.
Conveniently, the same campaign eliminated its main political rivals , and silenced and subdued the undecided.
The president also demonstrated a clear political vision from the beginning, promoting large national projects with international initiatives such as the new silk route and announcing major plans to end the country’s poverty before 2020.
In addition, it was speculated for some time that he could press to continue as president, because Xi is so powerful that it was difficult to imagine who could succeed him in five years.
“In fact, the leadership had been preparing the ground for this announcement: at a major party meeting last October, Xi challenged tradition by not appointing an obvious successor,” says Hatton.
For now, it is not clear until when the current president could remain in power.
But an editorial in the state newspaper Global Times states that the change “does not mean that the Chinese president will have a mandate for life .”
The newspaper also quoted Su Wie, an academic and member of the Communist Party, who said the decision was significant because China needed “stable, strong and consistent leadership” from 2020 to 2035.
But the greater power that Xi would acquire has also alarmed some observers.
“I think he’s going to become emperor for life, ” Willy Lam, a political science professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP.