The National People’s Congress passed a historic constitutional amendment on Sunday, formally removing term limits to enable Xi Jinping to stay on as the Chinese president beyond 2023.
The Chinese legislature gave a near-unanimous approval to the sweeping changes, with 2,958 votes in favour, and only two votes against, according to South China Morning Post.
And the endorsement came as no surprise, given the Communist Party’s iron grip on the legislature.
But the extremely high approval rate, nevertheless, gives the controversial move a veneer of universal support within the establishment; despite criticism at home and abroad.
According to Al Jazeera, the move reverses the era of “collective” leadership and orderly succession in the country that was once promoted by the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, to ensure stability following the turbulent one-man rule of Communist China’s founder Mao Zedong.
The two-term limit on the presidency was introduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1982.
This revision is the biggest change to the constitution in 36 years.
A total of 21 items; four in the preamble and 17 in the main body, were revised, with a new section inserted.
In addition to removing the term limits, the new constitution paves the way for the establishment of a new anti-graft super agency, the National Supervisory Commission.
The overarching body will extend the powers of the party’s graft watchdog to police all public employees, from officials and managers of state-owned enterprises to teachers, doctors and journalists.
Xi, 64, has consolidated power since taking office as general secretary of the Communist Party in 2012.
He would have had to give up the presidency after the end of his second term in 2023, but he now have a lifetime to push his vision of making China a global powerhouse with a “world-class” military.