China’s ruling Communist Party has proposed removing a limit of two consecutive terms for the country’s president and vice president, the country’s official news agency said Sunday.
The move, if approved, appears to lay the groundwork for party leader Xi Jinping to rule as president beyond 2023.
The party’s Central Committee proposed to remove from the constitution the expression that China’s president and vice president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms,” the Xinhua News Agency said in a brief report. It provided no further details.
The announcement came before the party’s Central Committee was to begin a three-day meeting in Beijing on Monday to discuss major personnel appointments and other issues.
Xi’s status as the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation was cemented at last year’s party congress, where he was given a second five-year term as general secretary.
Ahead of the party congress, Xi had been shoring up his authority and sidelining rivals, leaving him primed to press his agenda of tightened state control and muscular diplomacy. That included a push to insert his thoughts on theoretical matters into the party constitution and further cultivate a burgeoning cult of personality that could allow him to hold on to power beyond his second term.
The son of a famed communist elder, Xi rose through the ranks to the position of Shanghai’s party leader before being promoted to the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee in 2007.
When Xi did assume the top spot in 2012, it was as head of a reduced seven-member committee on which he had only one reliable ally, veteran Wang Qishan. He put Wang in charge of a sweeping anti-corruption crackdown that helped Xi eliminate challengers, both serving and retired, and cow potential opponents.
Xi, whose titles include head of the armed forces, has lavished attention on the military with parades and defense budget increases. But he’s also led a crackdown on abuses and a push to cut 300,000 personnel from the 2.3 million-member People’s Liberation Army, underscoring his ability to prevail against entrenched interests.
At the same time, Xi has added to his resume additional titles as leader of more than a half dozen special commissions overseeing areas from national security to foreign policy.
In a move carrying enormous symbolic weight, Xi last year took on the mantle of “core” of the party leadership, elevating him above his peers in a manner redolent of communist China’s founder, Mao Zedong.