Xi Jinping lays groundwork to rule China for life

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

A move taken today in China lays the groundwork for Chinese President Xi Jinping to extend his rule indefinitely. Xi, who is 68-years-old, has already served two five-year terms as president and would normally be required to step down next year. But today the communist party adopted a “historical resolution” that moves him into the realm of previously elevated leaders like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.


The move is only symbolic at this point but it’s an indication that Xi won’t be expected to play by the normal rules:

Experts say the “historical resolution” will pave the way for Xi, 68, to secure an unprecedented third term in office next year — and potentially rule China for life.

The move came at the end of the closely-watched sixth plenum of the party’s Central Committee, a mostly male group of more than 300 top leaders. It is the last major meeting before a party congress next year where a decision will be made on Xi’s future.

He is only the third leader to have a historical resolution adopted during his presidency, after Mao and Deng.

This was Xi’s “attempt to further consolidate his power and to define his historical legacy in the history of the party,” said Jinghan Zeng, a professor of China and international studies at Lancaster University in Britain ahead of the plenum.


To emphasize the importance of this, the state media has been in overdrive lately, praising Xi as a great leader. There’s a lot of emphasis on the grand history of the CPC and socialism. This is from a state media account of the historical resolution:

Chinese communists, with Mao as their chief representative, and the Chinese people showed the world that “the Chinese people were not only capable of dismantling the old world, but also of building a new one, that only socialism could save China, and that only socialism could develop China.”

The Chinese communists with Deng, who was also the chief designer of China’s reform and opening-up, as their chief representative have started the third period – the new period of reform, opening up, and socialist modernization…

The Party has established Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole and defined the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the communiqué said.

Of course the reality of Mao’s leadership is a bit more complicated. Dismantling the old world through communism wound up cruelly killing millions of people. And while Xi’s legacy so far isn’t famine, it could be the prisons and reeducations camps he created in Xinjiang for millions of people who had done nothing except be different from the Han Chinese majority.


There’s also another bit of potentially legacy that is clearly on Xi’s mind. Here’s a list of new stories on the People’s Daily Thursday. Do you sense a theme?

With the exception of one article about Xi, everything else is about how Hong Kong is better off under China’s thumb and how Taiwan should also be under China’s thumb. Taking away the human rights and freedom of tens of millions of people doesn’t sound like much of a legacy to me but that’s clearly where Xi Jinping is headed now that he’s put himself a leader on par with Mao.

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