By Samuel Adams
Lingxiu, a term that has not been uttered in communist China since the days of the late Mao Zedong, is now being used to describe the all-powerful Xi Jinping. Why has this title returned to prominence among leadership in China? On February 25, the Communist Party voted in favor of Xi’s proposal amending the constitution to eliminate the current limit of two five-year terms, thus strengthening Xi’s ever-growing grip of power.
For China, this maneuver by Xi and subsequent vote by the Communist Congress have massive ramifications. According to BBC and Xinhua news agency, Xi will be able to stay in office with no limit on how long he may hold that position. In addition to the presidency, Xi holds the seat of General Secretary of the Communist Party and of the military; neither of those positions having term limits either. According to Wu Qiang, a political analyst based in Beijing, Xi has solidified his grip on the country and removed “any potential political competitors. So far, there is no organized political competition for him.”
The responses to his move are already being felt within China and abroad. Xi’s campaign and first term were characterized by a strong emphasis on anti-corruption and an effort to combat disloyalty present in his party. According to the New York Times, the amendments also include the authorization of a new anti-corruption commission broadening an already far reaching campaign. This measure gives Xi almost absolute power to silence any remaining critics within his party and throughout the country, strengthening the chokehold on human rights in the nation.
The New York Times reports, in addition to his sweeping anti-corruption legislation, that Xi has also broken precedent by returning a retired legislator to office. Wang Qishan a devoted consort of Xi in the recent past, allied himself next to the president during his anti-corruption and disloyalty campaigns. Now, Qishan is expected to return to the legislative scene as a powerful advisor to Xi, taking up the position of vice president. It seems that Xi is distancing himself from past Chinese tradition, which consisted of a slow reduction of power by the president and an emphasis on grooming the next generation of Chinese leaders. Instead, he filled his cabinet with older, experienced men. In addition to excluding women from his cabinet, Xi, in another break from traditional Chinese policy, has refused to name any possible successor. As he creates an environment that will only solidify his power, China slips towards becoming a nation with a sole strongman at its head.
Further, Xi’s maneuver will likely affect the economy, though it is impossible to know how much and how soon, according to the Wall Street Journal. Last October, Liu He, a reformist economic adviser was given a seat on the president’s inner politburo and is expected to become a vice premier as well as the governor of China’s central bank. This move could indicate Xi finally committing to an economic reformation and eventual modernization, something he has promised several times, but has consistently refused to address.
This level of power has not been felt in China since the days of Mao, if not ever before. According to Xinhua, Xi will lead China to a new golden age with his newly attained power. The world watches as the fate of the country lies in the hands of one powerful man, Xi Jinping.