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    Mar
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    Here's how China is justifying the rise of 'Emperor Xi'
    Here's how China is justifying the rise of 'Emperor Xi'
    POLITICS

    Here's how China is justifying the rise of 'Emperor Xi'

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    by
    Grace Tsoi
    Grace Tsoi
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    China shocked the world last week when it announced a proposal to remove term limits for the presidency and vice-presidency.

    The move paves the way for Chinese leader Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely.

    Critics are referring to it as the rise of "Emperor Xi."  

    Now, in another twist, the Chinese Communist Party is seeking to justify the bombshell revisions to its constitution.

    So what exactly happened?

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    In typical Chinese Communist Party fashion, National People's Congress (NPC) Secretary General Wang Chen stood to read out an hour-long, 20-page explanation of 21 separate amendments to the constitution.

    As usual, the presentation was a formal affair.

    Delegates broke into applause as Wang explained the rationale behind the scrapping of the term limits, which was the most hotly anticipated section of the speech.

    Wang told some 3,000 delegates that the change would "protect the authority of the party with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core... which is beneficial to strengthening and perfecting the national leadership system."

    A China-based academic, who did not wish to be named, has said that the explanation of the amendments appears to be a response from the government to reports of dissent among the central leadership of the Communist Party.

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    ENGLISH

    Who made the proposal?

    In his speech, Wang said that the amendments were first proposed by Xi Jinping at a meeting of the Politburo – an elite group within the party – on September 29.

    Wang said that more than 2,000 opinions were subsequently collected from different regions and departments, as well as from party elders.

    However, a Chinese political analyst who wishes to stay anonymous told Inkstone that it wasn't clear whether the specific changes to term limits were discussed.

    Wang Chen gave an one-hour speech on the 21 constitutional changes, which were expected to be passed by the NPC on March 11.
    Wang Chen gave an one-hour speech on the 21 constitutional changes, which were expected to be passed by the NPC on March 11. Photo: EPA

    Who spearheaded the campaign?

    Parliamentary chief Zhang Dejiang was tasked to gather support within the party.

    He was assisted by two party veterans, who were both subsequently promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee – the ultimate layer of power within the party.

    What has the reaction been within China?

    The abolition of the presidential term limits has met with a surprising – for China – amount of opposition.

    Veteran journalist Li Datong penned a public letter, calling for Beijing's NPC delegates to vote against the amendments.

    Li said in the open letter that China would "go backwards" if the term limits were removed.

    Internet censorship has also reached new heights, with phrases such as "I disagree" and "proclaiming oneself to be emperor" made unavailable on the Chinese internet.

    Critics are worried that a cult of personality will develop around Xi, as it did around Chairman Mao.
    Critics are worried that a cult of personality will develop around Xi, as it did around Chairman Mao. Photo: AFP

    Why are term limits important?

    In his 1982 constitution, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping introduced term limits as a way of avoiding the rise of personality cults like the one that had grown up around Chairman Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution – a process which led to more than 1.7 million deaths.

    These term limits are considered one of Deng's most important legacies.

    The idea of changing it at all is worrying to some.

    Hong Kong-based political analyst Johnny Lau Yui-siu warns of the effects. 

    "In many countries, amending the constitution is a long process and it can only be done under consensus, as the constitution lays out the fundamental principles of a country."

    "After Xi Jinping secures his position, he has already planned it step by step so that he can stay in power for life," says Lau.

    Lawmakers are expected to vote on, and approve, the proposal this weekend. 

    GRACE TSOI
    GRACE TSOI
    Grace is a senior multimedia producer at Inkstone. She was previously a senior producer for BBC Chinese.

    GRACE TSOI
    GRACE TSOI
    Grace is a senior multimedia producer at Inkstone. She was previously a senior producer for BBC Chinese.

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