This article titled “‘Ensuring happier lives’: Chinese media defends move to make Xi Jinping all powerful” was written by Tom Phillips in Beijing, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 27th February 2018 09.06 Asia/Kolkata
The Communist party’s decision to abolish presidential term limits – a move experts and critics have condemned as a lurch towards unchecked dictatorship in China – is designed to “ensure people live happier lives”, a pro-Beijing newspaper has claimed.
The China Daily, an English-language broadsheet that serves as an international mouthpiece for Beijing’s views, said the move, announced on Sunday ahead of an annual political summit in Beijing, was “necessitated by the need to perfect the party and the state leadership system”.
“The strong leadership of the [Communist party of China] has proved to be a decisive factor for what this country has achieved both economically and politically over the past four decades,” it argued in an editorial.
As well as unveiling plans to scrap the two-term presidential limit, Beijing also announced a series of other amendments designed to bolster the rule of China’s leader, Xi Jinping, which began in 2012 and now looks likely to continue well into the 2030s.
“[Past] amendments have injected new ideas and concepts about where the country will go and how it will achieve its goal of rejuvenation and ensure people live happier lives. The amendments this time are no exception,” the China Daily said.
The newspaper’s claims came as the United States declined to criticise Beijing’s shock announcement, which has appalled dissidents and many China experts but been largely ignored by western governments.
“I believe that’s a decision for China to make about what’s best for their country,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, told reporters. Sanders said presidential term limits were something Donald Trump “supports here in the United States”. “But that’s a decision that would be up to China.”
That statement will go down well with the leaders of one-party China who have tried to portray their move as the result of overwhelming popular support for Xi.
“I hope everyone can acknowledge the voice of all the Chinese people,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told reporters at a press briefing on Monday in comments that were subsequently purged from the meeting’s official record.
But the United States’ response will disappoint Chinese liberals who had hoped, in vain, for international push back against Xi’s power grab.
In a public letter that circulated on Monday, Li Datong, a politically outspoken former journalist, claimed the move would be “mocked by civilised countries … It is a setback. It is like a seed that can lead China to chaos,” he warned.
In a second petition, Wang Ying, a reform-minded businesswoman, described the scrapping of term limits as a betrayal. “I know the proposal will be unanimously passed. I know there’s nothing normal people can do. But I have to speak out,” she wrote.
Orville Schell, the head of the Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations, said Beijing would give such views short shrift. “The Chinese intellectuals are irrelevant. In Xi’s world of the major food groups, they don’t count. Nor does the media, except as a vector for the party’s message.
“He has completely transformed every sort of watchdog institution and social grouping by either neutering them or by buying them off.”
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