02/27/2018, 13.50
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Xi Jinping as China’s 'new emperor', between censorship and praise

by Wang Zhicheng

For Bao Tong, the Party does what it wants in China. The Chinese must dream its dictatorial dreams. On social media, irony is unleashed. "I had the dream of voting for a president at least once in my life!" said one commentator. Winnie the Pooh was censored again. Economists appreciate stable leadership from an "investment perspective". The Global Times despises Western democracy as "in full decomposition".

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The proposal by the Communist Party of China (CPC) to remove term limits for the posts of president and vice-president will allow Xi Jinping to govern for life, as a new emperor.

Many Chinese have reacted with sadness to the idea, viewing it as a step backward, a return to imperial China, but economic experts praise it as a guarantee of stability and China's world power status.

The proposal will be voted by the upcoming National People’s Congress, the Chinese Parliament, set to meet in March, and will almost certainly not meet with any opposition.

Bao Tong, a former top aide to late ousted CPC chief Zhao Ziyang, who opposed the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown, noted "It has at least made public a reality that wasn't previously made public: that the Chinese Communist Party does whatever it wants in China". Now, "everyone is expected to go along with it, come what may."

"The country has to go along with what the party wants, dreams its dreams of dictatorship in the manner of Qin Shihuang, and of our Tang and Song dynasty forebears," he said, in a reference to China's first emperor who unified the country in 256 BC.

Reactions on social media ranged from the outraged to the incredulous, from the ironic to the critical, immediately removed by China’s ruthless censorship.

"Pathetic! 1.3 billion people and nobody opposes resistance!’ read one comment. "And to think that I had the dream of voting for a president at least once in my life!" said another.

"Long live to Chairman Mao!" sarcastically wrote one. "We have known imperial greed, the fear of authoritarian power, and nothing has changed 100 years later," wrote another.

For two days China’s web police worked overtime to suppress all comments containing words like "I oppose", "self-proclaimed emperor", "consecutive mandates", "constitutional amendments", "re-election", and again "Winnie the Pooh".

On social media, the cartoon character has become Xi’s nickname because his plump face and figure closely resembles the cute teddy bear.

Li Datong, a former editor with state-run China Youth Daily who was fired in 2005 for criticising some historical interpretations by the Party's big wigs, wrote an open letter to the members of the National People's Congress for Beijing.

“The two-term limit on the presidency introduced in the 1982 constitution is an epochal political reform by the Communist Party of China and all the Chinese people, after their reflection on the enormous sufferings of the Cultural Revolution,” the open letter says.

“It’s also one of the most important political legacies of [late paramount leader] Deng Xiaoping. “Lifting the term limits . . . would sow the seeds of chaos for China.”

But not everybody bemoans the changes. Xi's plan to remain in power indefinitely is seen as a positive step in business circles.

Robert Carnell, chief Asia economist with ING, said that the lifting of the restriction provides some upsides “from an investment perspective”.

Economic endeavours such as the transition into a consumer economy and Xi’s pet “Belt and Road Initiative” were “more likely to be successful with a strong and steady leadership”, he told the South China Morning Post.

Raymond Yeung, chief Greater China economist at ANZ (Australian and New Zealand Banking Group), said lifting the restriction would enhance policy stability, which in turn would be positive for China’s long-term economic reforms. “[M]any reforms can’t be completed in five or ten years,” he noted.

For its part, state-owned English-language China Daily, defended the end of the restrictions on presidential mandates as necessary to hone “the system of government of Party and State".

The Global Times, which is linked to the People's Daily, calls the change a "rationalization" of the power structure.

Despising the Western democratic system, the paper goes on to say that "In the crucial regions of the West, the value system is collapsing. Democracy . . . is in full decomposition . . . Our country must not be troubled by the outside world."

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