Is Xi Jinping ‘personally opposed’ to lifelong rule?


On February 25, the Chinese Communist Party proposed to remove term limits on its president and vice president, essentially ensuring that — when the time came to vote, which it did the following month at the National People’s Congress — Xi Jinping would clear the path for himself to be president for life, if he so chose.

But a recent report from Financial Times (paywall) suggests that perhaps Xi doesn’t want to choose this. It’s a head-scratcher:

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that he is “personally opposed” to life-long rule, adding that foreign observers have “misinterpreted” a recent constitutional amendment that revoked the two-term limit on the presidency.

Mr Xi expressed his views at three recent meetings with foreign dignitaries and Chinese officials, according to people who either attended the meetings or were briefed on the discussions.

If he’s personally opposed to the idea, then why did Xi take the highly unpopular action of removing the term limits? “Mr. Xi justified the decision in terms of needing to align the country’s three top government and Communist party jobs,” say the sources.

This is the same formulation that was used in state media comments on constitutional change. Critics of the removal of term limits are unlikely to be satisfied with these bromides.

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In other Xi Jinping news, Voice of America interviewed 101 year-old Li Rui 李锐 in his hospital bed (video in Chinese). Li is an elite Party member who worked as Mao Zedong’s secretary for a time. Li expresses his admiration for Xi Zhongxun 习仲勋, the current president’s late father, but says he was surprised at the “low level” of Xi Jinping’s education and his failure to learn from Mao Zedong’s mistakes.

Li was imprisoned from 1959 to 1979 for being an anti-Party element, and has become a prominent dissenting voice in the Party elite in the last two decades, so he is perhaps not representative of any trend. But I’d be curious to know how many of his fellow Party members agree with him.

And in one more piece of related Xi news: The Paper reports (in Chinese) that three institutes at Beihang University 北京航空航天大学, previously known as Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, are recruiting foreign scholars and researchers, but with a twist. The new recruits must have “a high level of ideological and political quality” and have made “in-depth study of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” and “resolutely uphold the authority of the Party Central Committee.”

As Emily Feng of the Financial Times notes:

Also see:

Why the removal of presidential term limits shocked so many in China