Originally, President Xi Jinping was due to step down in 2023 based on term limits that were put in place in 1982. On Sunday, approximately 3,000 delegates in the most populous country in the world voted to amend their nation’s constitution, paving the way for Xi to remain in his role for as long as he likes.
The amendment, voted on by China’s parliament, referred to as the National People’s Congress, was widely expected, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times. The group has not voted down, in its 64-year history, a Communist party decision.
Only two delegates voted against the change, three abstained from the vote, and 2,958 voted in favor of changing the term limits that were added to the country’s constitution in 1982 based on the results of Mao Tse-tung’s rule.
Willy Lam, an author of a book regarding the Xi era and expert on the political climate in China at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, believes Xi would have been unhappy with any other result.
“This constitutional revision came from [Xi],” said Lam. “It is fully his initiative, and it has been controversial within the party and among the people.”
“So, he needs that extremely high approval reading to shot that this is not a selfish initiative,” he added. “This is not him wanting to become an emperor for life, but this is the will of the people.”
Xi, 64, doesn’t just serve as president. He also holds two other positions: general secretary of the Communist Party and chairman of the Central Military Commission. Only his role as president was subject to term limits, though that position is considered by some to be of the least consequence.
The decision left some Chinese intellectuals, students, and former officials with concerns, as it implies Xi may now have limitless power within the nation.
Xi has been working to consolidate power since he assumed his position in 2012, including the punishment of rivals and silencing or jailing those who dissent. Some have referred to Xi as the “chairman of everything” within the country.
Other changes approved on Sunday include removing terms limits for the vice president, establishing a new anti-corruption agency within the nation, and including some of Xi’s political ideology into the preamble of the country’s constitution.