By Karen Wang
China’s Congress has recently ratified a proposal to lift a provision of its constitution which limits the maximum amount of terms for any president to serve to two. This new modification will enable current President Xi Jinping to run again for a third 5-year long term in 2023. They will vote on the proposal on March 11.
The move has sparked controversy both within and outside China, with many calling Xi’s moves to maintain power as the second coming Chairman Mao. There was an additional proposal by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party to add President Xi’s signature ideology, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” to the constitution’s preamble, where it would join Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, and Deng Xiaoping Theory.
According to CNN, many have suspected and speculated on Xi possibly making a major power grab following his failure to unveil a successor at a major party congress, something that has been a long held tradition by the Chinese Communist Party since the reign of Deng Xiaoping, the second most powerful communist leader in Chinese after Chairman Mao.
Political experts have stated that Xi’s grab for power is representative of an old struggle within Chinese politics between the strongman policies from the era of Mao Zedong and the reforms from Deng Xiaoping’s reign that include several checks and balances and embraces a peaceful transition of power.
Some citizens and state media reporters have argued that the move is in good taste, citing that China has made many leaps of progress in recent years and that strong, stable, and decisive leadership will be key to maintaining its path to economic and financial prosperity and domination.
Zhang Yesui, vice foreign minister and spokesman for the parliament, said at a news conference that removing term limits “benefits protecting the authority of the party center and collective leadership with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, and benefits the strengthening and perfecting of the national leadership system” (Reuters).
However, the proposal Xi’s recent actions have led many to believe that China is entering another Mao-esque authoritarian era, drawing widespread concern and unease within the international community.
This has also resonated with several Chinese citizens, and following the announcement of the proposal, Internet censors in China began banning and deleting several outraged and angry Chinese social media posts.
Among the words and images censored were Winnie the Pooh (a long time Chinese meme meant to mock and represent President Xi, users have posted pictures of the animated bear holding a jar of honey with the caption “Find what you love and stick to it”), the letter n (in reference to the phrase “the president may run for n amount of terms, with n>2”), the books 1984 and Animal Farm, and the words slavery, immortality, emperor, shameless, and driving backwards.
A common theme throughout censored posts was a concern over a return to Mao era policies, with some joking that China is going backwards in time and becoming increasingly similar to its neighbor, North Korea. Many users have also dubbed the president as “Xi Zedong.”
The amendment package was passed with an overwhelming majority on March 11, with only two members of the 3,000 member Congress voting against the move and three members abstaining from the vote.