BEIJING — China’s official news agency says the ruling Communist Party has proposed removing a limit of two consecutive terms for the country’s president and vice president.
The Xinhua News Agency said in a brief report Sunday that the party’s Central Committee proposed to remove from the constitution the expression that China’s president and vice president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms.” It provided no further details.
The move, if approved, appears to lay the groundwork for party leader Xi Jinping to rule as president beyond 2023.
Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing, China, 01 February 2018. CHRIS RATCLIFFE/POOL / EPA
Xi, 64, is currently required by the country’s constitution to step down as president after two five-year terms.
The announcement came before the party’s Central Committee was to begin a three-day meeting in Beijing on Monday to discuss major personnel appointments and other issues.
Xi’s status as the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation was cemented at last year’s party congress, where he was given a second five-year term as general secretary.
Ahead of the party congress, Xi had been shoring up his authority and sidelining rivals, leaving him primed to press his agenda of tightened state control and muscular diplomacy. That included a push to insert his thoughts on theoretical matters into the party constitution and further cultivate a burgeoning cult of personality that could allow him to hold on to power beyond his second term.
The son of a famed communist elder, Xi rose through the ranks to assume the top spot in 2012.
At last year’s party congress the ruling Communist Party formally lifted Xi’s status to China’s most powerful ruler in decades. Already dubbed the “Chairman of Everything,” the party voted to enshrine his name and political “thoughts” in its constitution.
It means he is elevated in historical stature alongside Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, long considered modern China’s most influential leaders. It also effectively makes any act of opposing him tantamount to an attack on the party itself.
Constitutional reform needs to be approved by parliament. That is stacked with members chosen for their loyalty to the party, meaning the reform will not be blocked.
Xi, whose titles include head of the armed forces, has lavished attention on the military with parades and defense budget increases. But he’s also led a crackdown on abuses and a push to cut 300,000 personnel from the 2.3 million-member People’s Liberation Army, underscoring his ability to prevail against entrenched interests.