Beijing (AsiaNews) – Tomorrow, Xi Jinping is set to become president for “as long as he wants” or until something unpredictable happens, this according to behind-the-scene talk a day before the National People’s Congress (NPC) opens.
Against the backdrop of a booming trade in novelties associated with the new party line, some 3,000 delegates to the NPC are preparing to repeal terms limits for the offices of president and vice president.
The proposal, presented at the beginning of the week by an official – who described it as a request coming from the people – was welcomed by a loud applause from the PNC members, but outside the hall, in private, when asked for a comment about the abolition of presidential term limits that would given Xi Jinping unfettered power, the response is muted.
The Global Times noted that changing the constitution did not necessarily mean “that the Chinese president will have a lifelong tenure.” Citing party ideologues, the paper insisted that China needs “stable, strong and consistent leadership”, particularly from 2020 to 2035.
According to the People’s Daily, the tradition of sanweiyiti (three positions – Party General Secretary, State President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission – in one person) has proven “beneficial to upholding and safeguarding the authority of the central authorities and concentrating unified leadership”. Thus, the proposed constitutional amendment would guarantee its continuation.
As the word spread, on WeChat, China’s leading social media platform, a mixture of disbelief and cynicism emerged about the almost-inevitable return to a life-long ruler, something that China had not seen since Mao’s death in 1976.
For the regime’s notorious Internet censors this meant removing negative references or keywords — like “emperor” and “disagree”. The growing number of dead links and chat sessions going quiet were further proof of this.
Strict censorship, along with a propaganda blitz, on the term-limit move has shown no sign of abating, with many viewing its intensity as an indication of the authorities’ surprise at the widespread public backlash.
One phrase that people keep using is even attributed to Mao: “The masses have sharp eyes.” Indeed, as the grip on the internet becomes tighter, more and more Chinese seem determined to scale the so-called “Great Firewall” to find unfiltered information.
Still, many also share a sense of pride for the country’s unprecedented economic growth, even under Xi since late 2012, this in spite of the widespread complaints about the growing income gap, rising cost of living and lack of upward social mobility,