On Thursday, China’s Communist Party passed a resolution paving the way for President Xi Jinping to rule for the rest of his lifetime, similar to the power once held by revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.
Experts say he has now officially been elevated to the status once held by China’s first Communist leader, who launched the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
Xi now appears to have carte blanche to rule over the vast country indefinitely.
Xi strengthens role within authoritarian system
In a document that functions as a summary of the 100 years of the history of the Communist Party in China, Xi is accorded the same status as the founder of the party, Mao Zedong, and the later leader Deng Xiaoping, who was Chairman of the central military commission during the failed uprising in Tiananmen Square in 1989, when the military fired upon protesters, killing hundreds and possibly thousands.
This resolution makes Xi just the third leader in modern Chinese history to be allowed to rule for their lifetime.
A communique regarding the resolution states “Comrade Xi Jinping, through meticulous assessment and deep reflection on a number of major theoretical and practical questions regarding the cause of the Party and the country in the new era, has set forth a series of original new ideas, thoughts, and strategies on national governance revolving around the major questions of our times.”
The issuance of Thursday’s document marks just the most recent time that Xi has firmed up his hold on power, allowing him to run for a fifth term as the Chinese President in 2022.
The Chinese parliament, which simply gives rubber stamps to the ruling President’s fiats, negated all term limits for the position back in 2018.
Now that he has been elevated to this new status, some political experts believe that any criticism of the President could be officially viewed as an attack against the party itself.
Timothy Cheek, a professor at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, told interviewers from the Wall Street Journal, “Not everyone in the party is convinced that this centralization authority and the valorization of a supreme leader is the best way to build the party and strengthen China.
However, he noted, “The historical resolution will decidedly answer those concerns, claim the moral high ground and, importantly, define political disagreement or dissent as disloyalty and treachery.”
Chairman for life
“He has set himself up to be Chairman for Life. No matter how long he survives in this game of thrones, when he departs the scene he will not have provided for an orderly succession,” Cheek concluded.
Xi has served as the President of the People’s Republic of China since 2013. He has been the paramount leader of China since 2012.
The son of Chinese Communist veteran Xi Zhongxun, he was exiled to rural Yanchuan County as a teenager following his father’s purge during the Cultural Revolution. He lived in in the village of Liangjiahe, where he joined the CCP and worked as the party secretary.
After studying chemical engineering at Tsinghua University as a “Worker-Peasant-Soldier student”, Xi rose through the ranks politically in China’s coastal provinces. He was Governor of Fujian from 1999 to 2002, before becoming Governor and Party Secretary of neighbouring Zhejiang from 2002 to 2007.
Xi is described as a dictator or an authoritarian leader by most political and academic observers, citing an increase of censorship and mass surveillance, a deterioration in human rights, the cult of personality developing around him and the removal of term limits for Chinese leadership under his tenure.