Xi Jinping becomes China's 'president for life' as Parliament abolishes term limits

Framed portraits of German philosopher Karl Marx Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin and China’s late leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping hang above a screen showing President Xi Jinping

Beijing, Mar 11 China's one-party political landscape today changed as the country's rubber-stamp parliament ratified a historic constitutional amendment abolishing the two-term limit for President Xi Jinping, paving the way for his continuation in power perhaps for life.

The limit of two five-year presidential terms was written into China's constitution after Mao's death in 1976 by Deng Xiaoping, who recognised the dangers of one-man rule and the cult of personality and instead espoused collective leadership.

Inside Beijing's Great Hall of the People, almost 3,000 delegates to the National People's Congress (NPC) cast their ballots on a series of proposed amendments - including removing the restriction that had limited the presidency to two consecutive five-year terms.

Xi stood up first at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to cast his paper ballot in a red box.

The 64-year-old swiftly consolidated power after taking over as party chief in late 2012, and quickly consolidated personal power while cementing China as the regional superpower.

China's ruling Communist Party proposed the amendment last month and there was never any doubt it would pass as parliament is packed with loyal party members who would not have opposed the proposal. "So, I don't think there is a problem or a question about the amendment", he said without elaborating.Asked about the concerns of return to the Mao era dictatorship during which millions of people were killed in the Cultural Revolution, Shen said the "speculation has no basis".

2016 - The party bestows on Xi the wholly ceremonial yet highly significant title of "core" of the fifth generation of Chinese leaders.

China is at a crossroads and President Xi needs to prove that the current political and economic structure can reduce poverty, regain the nation's global position and revive its global potential.

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He is now in his second five-year term and due to retire in 2023 under the current two term system.

Shen told reporters the party has accumulated extensive experience over its 90-year history that has led to a system of orderly succession to "maintain the vitality and long-term stability of the party and the people".

The inclusion of the Vice President was notably aimed at reinforcing Xi's support base as his trusted lieutenant, Wang Qishan (69), is tipped to take over the post despite a widely-followed convention by Chinese leaders to retire after 68 years.

"He wants to prevent power from falling into the hands of technocrats like Jiang (Zemin) and Hu (Jintao)", Wu said, referring to Xi's two predecessors.

President Xi seemed to show little emotion as the news was announced, choosing to staying in his seat with other deputies to listen to a report on the work of the congress delivered by its outgoing chairman.

The NPC was also expected to endorse another draft constitutional amendment to enshrine Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era in the fundamental law.

The surprise move triggered a backlash online, prompting censors to block phrases and words such as "I disagree" and "emperor" and the image of Winnie the Pooh, the cartoon bear to which Xi has been compared.

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