Move that ‘could destroy China’
XI JINPING has become China's leader for life, sparking fears the country is heading down a dangerous path to dictatorship.
Mr Xi, is now poised to rule over China indefinitely, after politicians abolished presidential term limits that had been in place for more than 35 years and wrote his political philosophy into the country's constitution.
The move has alarmed some experts who fear it will wind back the country's political progress.
Only two delegates out of 2964 voted against the controversial change and three abstained at the annual gathering of Communist Party loyalists, which is seen as a rubberstamp exercise.
Amending the constitution to allow Mr Xi, 64, the possibility of being a leader for life has stirred worries of China's return to an era of autocratic rule not seen since Chairman Mao.
The Communist Party announced the proposal to scrap term limits in February, saying the move was needed to maintain stability and continuity as China navigates its economic and political rise.
Critics have blasted the decision to scrap the two-term rule and warned it was steering China towards a dictatorship.
Retired newspaper editor and government Li Datong said the move was a dangerous one, The Guardianreported.
"This could destroy China and the Chinese people," he said. "So I cannot stay silent. I have to let them know that there are people against it, and to do so publicly."
He also said the party members were behaving like puppets.
NOT A SURPRISE
According to Dr Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst in Defence Strategy and Capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Mr Xi's promotion wasn't unexpected.
"Xi was putting steps into place towards this coronation from last year and his power was pretty much assured from the 19th Party Congress," Dr Davis said.
"Effectively he can be President for Life at this point - barring some unexpected downturn in China's power or a setback for their international influence."
Dr Davis pointed out that being the president for life also came with huge responsibility.
"I think that he will have as much, if not more power than Mao did, and this is occurring at a time, not when China is a backwater economy, but a global superpower that is challenging US global predominance," he said.
"He may take a more assertive and confident tone on international matters and be willing to shape the China Dream more to his own image."
Dr Davis also said it wasn't just a victory for Mr Xi and feared other leaders could do the same.
"I think this is a real win for him - and others like Putin will likely attempt to follow in his footsteps," he said.
"Authoritarianism is clearly on the march at the moment, and there is no credible leadership coming from western liberal democracies to counter it."
New York-based Park Strategies senior vice president Sean King, an expert on Asian politics, said he was less concerned with how long Mr Xi stays in power than how he got there in the first place.
"Especially disheartening is how supposed stewards of the world order, namely President Trump and Pope Francis, are fawning over Xi of late," he said.
"Xi's draconian moves on religious rights for example, taking crosses off Protestant churches in Zhejiang Province should be reason enough for both to keep their distance but apparently not."
Mr Xi is at the centre of the Communist Party's most colourful efforts to build a cult of personality since the death of People's Republic founder Mao Zedong in 1976.
His image dominates hours of state television broadcasts, the front pages of state newspapers, magazine covers, billboards around parks, signs posted along footpaths and posters sold at markets.
On television, Mr Xi is often depicted as being wildly adored by anyone from factory workers and farmers to space engineers and soldiers who typically applaud him for several minutes.
The effort has prompted memories of the upheaval of Mao's 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution where hundreds of thousands were imprisoned, died or were accused of crimes against the government.
However, spokespeople for the party reject such talk, insisting Mr Xi is the core of its seven-member Standing Committee, not a lone strongman.
- with AP/AFP