China’s Xi Wins Constitutional Backing for New Strongman Era


President Xi Jinping of China casting his vote on Sunday at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress in Beijing.Credit How Hwee Young/EPA, via Shutterstock

BEIJING — President Xi Jinping of China secured a sweeping mandate on Sunday to extend his hard-line authoritarianism far into the future, as the national legislature lifted the presidential term limit and gave constitutional backing to expanding the reach of the Communist Party.

Under the red-starred dome of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, nearly 3,000 delegates of the National People’s Congress, the party-controlled legislature, voted to approve an amendment to the Constitution to abolish the term limit on the presidency, opening the way for Mr. Xi to rule indefinitely.

The vote approved a list of amendments that also included updating the Constitution with salutes to Mr. Xi and his drive to assert party supremacy.

China’s Xi Wins Constitutional Backing for New Strongman Era
China’s Xi Wins Constitutional Backing for New Strongman Era

Ever since the party said two weeks ago that it wanted to remove the 35-year-old line in the Constitution limiting the president and vice president to two consecutive terms, there was never any real doubt that the congress would approve the move. But the lopsided outcome — 2,958 votes in favor, two against and three abstentions — underlined how much Mr. Xi dominates politics and feels emboldened to demand drastic change.

The delegates applauded briefly when an official declared the vote was over, and they applauded again for about 20 seconds when the outcome was announced.

The constitutional amendments marked a victory not just for Mr. Xi’s own ambitions, but also for his quest to entrench the Communist Party at the heart of politics, society and the economy as China ascends as a global power.

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