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China: Xi Jinping set to rule beyond 2023 after Communist Party proposes removal of two-term limit for president

The tenure of the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation may be extended by a tweaking of the constitution

Samuel Osborne
Sunday 25 February 2018 10:28 GMT
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Nearing the end of his first five-year term, under current rules Mr Xi must step down before the end of this second term
Nearing the end of his first five-year term, under current rules Mr Xi must step down before the end of this second term (EPA)

China’s ruling Communist Party has proposed removing a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to two consecutive terms – potentially allowing Xi Jinping to stay in office indefinitely.

If approved, the move lays the groundwork for Mr Xi to rule as president beyond 2023. Already the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation, he was given a second five-year term as General Secretary at last year’s party congress.

The party’s Central Committee proposed to remove an expression in the constitution saying China’s president and vice president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms,” the Xinhua News Agency said.

Mr Xi, 64, is currently required by the country’s constitution to step down as president after two five-year terms. Nearing the end of his first term, he will be formally elected to a second at the annual meeting of China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament opening on 5 March.

The announcement gave few details.

“The era of Emperor Xi,” tweeted Joshua Wong, the pro-democracy leader in Hong Kong, who is considered to have organised the student protests against Chinese rule in the territory.

The Central Committee also proposed inserting his official ideological framework – the “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” – into the constitution, Xinhua said in a separate report. It is already enshrined in the arguably more important Communist Party constitution.

Constitutional reform needs to be approved by parliament. which is stacked with members chosen for their loyalty to the Party, meaning the reform will not be blocked.

There is no limit on Mr Xi’s tenure as the Party and military chief, though a maximum 10-year term is the norm.

He began his second term as head of the Party and military in October at the end of a party congress held once every five years.

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There has been persistent speculation Mr Xi wants to stay on in office past the customary two five-year terms.

Additional reporting by agencies

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