There is a proposition being considered by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which would eliminate the two-term limit for the office of the Chinese presidency. This fundamental change to the system would allow Xi Jinping, the current president, to remain in office for life, essentially turning him and the office into a dictatorship. This is a giant leap back for the Chinese political system and one that reflects a failure to learn from history.
This move equates to winding the clock back to the ’50s and ’60s, a time when Mao Zedong was the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. Mao served as a popular founding father of the current People’s Republic of China and stayed in office for more than 30 years. Now looking back, Mao’s reign over the country is viewed as a calamity that resulted in senseless death and led to economic and political ruin in China. With his “Great Leap Forward” alone, Mao caused the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese citizens through violent struggles and the famine he created by targeting the agricultural system.
After the failure of the Great Leap Forward, Mao targeted political opponents and initiated mass displacement in his Cultural Revolution, a political movement that carried on even after Mao had passed away. It left the political system of China in utter ruin and eventually led to the rewriting of the constitution and the abolition of the office of the Chairman. After Mao’s death, public institutions didn’t open for nearly a week.
The cult of personality that followed Mao crippled China and led to the abuse of millions of innocent people as well as the need to completely restructure the Chinese government. The government recognized that Mao’s actions must not be allowed to happen again in China, so when the office was established (now recognized in the West as President instead of Chairman), they restricted the office’s power and instilled the five-year, two-term limit.
Now in 2018, China intends to repeat history. The cult of personality around Xi already bodes poorly for preventing the repeat from becoming reality. In China, he is revered and praised unanimously and is affectionately referred to as “Uncle Xi.” Just a few years ago, some of his limitations were removed when the Communist Party named him their “core leader.” Even if one believes Xi will not be a recreation of Mao and personally abuse the system, the term limit removal will allow the chance for tyranny to grip the Chinese government once again.
With the exception of United States President Donald Trump, the international community has already made clear its distaste of abolishing the term limits of the President’s office. Unfortunately, it seems their disapproval will do little, as Chinese officials have already jumped to defend the move. It is very likely the proposition will pass and Xi will be able to sit in his office until he dies. We can only hope the tragedies that have plagued the Chinese people several decades ago do not return to haunt them after their government revives these failed ideas and failed policies.