China’s Xi Jinping set to abolish term limits, rule indefinitely


The elimination of term limits for China’s president, Xi Jinping, will almost certainly be rubber-stamped into law at the Two Sessions in March.

On February 25, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) proposed a host of constitutional changes for the country. You can read all the revisions here, translated on the website NPC Observer, but here is the one everyone is talking about:

“The Communist Party of China Central Committee proposed to remove the expression that the President and Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China ‘shall serve no more than two consecutive terms’ from the country’s Constitution.”

  • The elimination of term limits for China’s president, Xi Jinping, will almost certainly be rubber-stamped into law at the Two Sessions in March.
  • Xi Jinping is already the “Chairman of Everything”: He has long been General Secretary of the CPC and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, two top-level positions that do not have formal term limits (he is also the head of at least 10 other entities, commissions, and leading groups).
  • “Xi Jinping has revealed unambiguously his ambition to rule China until he dies or is disabled by age,” writes Susan Shirk of UC San Diego.
  • This is not a surprise in our reading. As SupChina’s editors wrote in early November 2017, after the 19th Party Congress, “Xi Jinping is now essentially the leader of the Communist Party of China for life, and the Party will seek to control all of society more, not less, for the foreseeable future.”

What is perhaps surprising is the timing. Jude Blanchette, an expert on Chinese politics in Beijing and a scholar writing a book on neo-Maoism in China, commented on Twitter:

  • “This is extraordinary… We’re seeing the rapid dismantling of the Deng era project to de-Maoify Chinese politics…I really thought a move like this was a few years off.”
  • “I just thought it was way too aggressive and bold [a move] and unnecessarily so, Blanchette explained to the Guardian.

For years now, there has been a consensus among Western commentators on China that Xi Jinping is the strongest Chinese leader since Mao. For months, increasing numbers of observers became confident that Xi was not the reformist that some had guessed him to be when he was sworn in as China’s leader five years ago. But until today, consensus had not quite been reached that Xi was genuinely willing, ready, or able to remove the limits on power that Deng had put in place. Now that is happening. As Bill Bishop wrote (paywall) today in his Sinocism newsletter:

“The events of the last few days should finally end the debate over whether or not Xi respects ‘norms.’ He respects power and appears to have never met a norm he saw as binding. This is not an academic debate.”

We’ll have more on the constitutional changes tomorrow for our SupChina Access members. Click here to become a SupChina Access member!

Lucas Niewenhuis, Jemima Barr, and Anthony Tao contributed research.

400 female experts on China

If you haven’t already, check out this excellent resource on female expertise on China.

  • The “women’s list” of experts on Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, and Taiwan was created just a year ago, and Agence France-Presse reporter Joanna Chiu announced on Twitter over the weekend that it had nearly reached 400 listings.
  • Learn more about the list from a Sinica interview with its co-creators, Joanna Chiu and Lucy Hornby, from last April.