On March 11th, 2018 Chinese President Xi Jinping (born 1953) was allowed to stay in power beyond the two terms that had been established in 1982 by the reformist leader Teng Hsiao-ping (1904-1997).
The National People’s Congress (NPC), the parliament of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), unexpectedly removed those presidential and vice-presidential time limits.
Out of the 2,964 unpaid part-time legislators delegated that year to the largest parliamentary body in the world founded in 1954, just two voted against the change and three abstained.
Therefore Xi, who would have been due to step down in early 2023, theoretically became leader for life and didn’t have to present a potential successor at the party congress to be hold in October of that year.
On top of that, the CPC voted to enshrine his name and political ideology in its constitution, elevating his status to the level of Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976), the founding father of the PRC.
On the occasion, even the PRC’s Constitution was amended to mention Xi’s specific views about China’s future. Such a procedure brought back memories of the one-man dictatorship under the Great Helmsman.
The “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” had been first officially mentioned at the 19th National Congress of the CCP in October 2017.
His predecessor Hu Jintao (born 1942) possessed a modest and reserved style, characterized by collective leadership and consensus-based rule. At the end of his tenure, Hu won praise for retiring voluntarily from all positions.
Hu apparently represented a new, more open-minded type of autocratic Chinese ruler from a generation that hadn’t participated actively in the civil war, which lasted intermittently between 1927 and 1949.
When on November 15th, 2012 Xi began his accession to top posts by being elected General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, it wasn’t obvious that he would ultimately break with a decades-old tradition of promoting relative change in China every ten years.
It’s hard to say if he succeeded in doing so just for the sake of his own self-aggrandizement, though at least in the public eye, Xi represents the human embodiment of the CCP and for the foreseeable future that won’t change. Only time will tell if he really manages to hold on indefinitely.