Why is "president for life" in China such a big deal?

  • "Great Leap Backward" was the title announcing the term limit removal in China. This BBC article tells us more about this:

    The constitution has been altered to allow Xi Jinping to remain as president beyond two terms and they would not have gone to this much trouble if that was not exactly what he intended to do.

    I am wondering why it is this so important.

    Putin is de facto leader for more than 3 mandates (not much big difference from "for life") and I do not remember to be illustrated so harshly:

    Commentators, analysts and some politicians[7][8][9][10] concurred in 2008 and early 2009 that the transfer of presidential powers that took place on May 7, 2008, was in name only and Putin continued to retain the number one position in Russia's effective power hierarchy, with Dmitry Medvedev being a figurehead or "Russia’s notional president".

    Also, China seems to be less active than Russia regarding external conflicts nowadays.

    Question: Why is "president for life" in China such a big deal?

    Not enough for a full answer, but perhaps it's because China actively *changed* their constitution to keep Xi Jinping in power, whereas Russian laws *already* allowed somebody to continually be re-elected if they skip every third term.

    If your defense against a policy is "Putin does it too", that's not going to be viewed as a great defense in most of the Western world.

    It gives other term-limited presidents ideas?

    It is only an issue in countries like China, USA and Russia where the president has extensive powers. I don't know of any parliamentary systems that have anything like term limits.

    Merkel would also qualify.

    The fact that outing criticism on Xi Jinping can now end in jail time with the "president" for life makes him more a dictator then a president

    One could ask the even more interesting question 'Why does the West care so much?'

    **This is important because of the legacy of Mao and the cultural revolution.** It seems like many Chinese remember that period as a nightmare due to all the executions, collateral damage, and imprisonments. I believe the implication might be that if Mao didn't have so much power, then the cultural revolution wouldn't have been so dark and brutal.

    This is interesting because, while the political party doesn’t change, there are no limits on how long a Prime Minister can serve in the UK. Of course the ~5 yearly elections stop this being an issue, and I expect our resident “dictator-for-life” the Queen would step in to prevent damage.

    if someone doesn't know why is being president for life is such a big deal, then he probably doesn't know why dictatorship is a big deal and he probably doesn't know what freedom is too. I'm from lebanon, people here keep electing the same people, I feel pity for you and them.

    "big deal" to whom?

    As @user1721135 said, Angela Merkel from Germany qualifies too, and imho may be a better example than Putin. Germany didn't have a term limitation for the chancellor from the start. Coming from Germany, we may don't have many "dictatorship"-ish laws, but we suffer in other categories. Just today I saw China is better now with renewable energy than Germany. China. This shows how much our government slacks off. For another comparison, look up how the automobile scandal was handled in the USA and in Germany. So sad.

    If the president is within a few years of his term limit then there is no incentive to for him to put his political opponents in jail. President "for life" gives the current president a motive to put his political opponents in jail.

    Do you really want to compare a country with Russian leadership ?

    Speaking from a Chinese perspective, its because Xi Jinping is seen as a populist leader with definite support from certain populations in China and even overseas population as can be seen by his nickname (习大大, roughly translates to Xi the Great) because people of the may 4th generation see him as embodying similar values to them as Xi grew up in a labour camp. As well, the previous leadership were either outright evil/corrupt or pretty much ineffective (Hu Jintao) so Xi is welcome breath of fresh air. So the start of his terms were seen as generally good with his anti-corruption (purges?).

    However, the worry is that Xi Jinping would become another Mao, who was a populist leader before coming to power and war hero. So there are definitely opponents to Xi changing the term limits because that would mean that Xi can entrench his power more and become 习皇帝 (Emperor Xi) and another Mao. Take in mind, that Deng (xiaoping) limited terms in the constitution to limit another possibility of a "Chinese dictator", a personality cult and the chance of another Cultural revolution.

    The worries of outside media is that Xi becomes another dictator, worries inside China is similar but not as much because Xi in both status and upbringing is not Mao. However China in recent years have ramped up communistic propaganda in TV programs, etc. so it has a possibility.

  • Putin is de facto leader for more than 3 mandates (not much big difference from "for life") and I do not remember to be illustrated so harshly

    Consider revisiting your news sources somewhat. There was an international outcry at the time (in the West anyway), because he had the constitution changed to stay in power.

    Plus, whataboutism is a logical fallacy.

    Why "president for life" in China is such a big deal?

    Because as undemocratic as the regime may have been in recent decades, it has had a somewhat inexplicable knack for having one or two term dictators rather than a series of dictators for life like North Korea. Some (many?) fear that this change might be a return to the Mao days. Which might be sort of fine to outsiders if you're a backward developing country, but not so inviting to outsiders when you're the second largest economy in the world and the main US trading partner.

    Putin didn’t change constitution to stay in power. The Russian constitution always limited only consecutive terms, not total amount of terms.

    @EricTowers not the best analogy, as Puyi was a powerless puppet.

    @VasilyAlexeev Putin/Medvedev changed the constitution to allow Putin to return and keep power for twelve years instead of only eight, however. From the very moment Medvedev proposed this people were saying that this was intended for Putin, and they were right. I think the original answer was correct, there was no need to change it.

    Still don't understand why it is more positive to have consecutive dictators instead of lifetime dictators? It's the same crappy situation.

    @ThorstenS. I speculate that many would argue that consecutive dictators at least allow for the possibility of change. And it allows those who disagree with a leader's policies to (in theory) "wait it out" for the leader's term to end. Of course, if the leader has groomed a successor, it's still a futile effort -- but hope, however fleeting, is a powerful drug.

    @ThorstenS. Every time a country's leader changes, it's a chance at a real shift in their politics. Often, that doesn't materialise, but in general, a country is much more likely to maintain the status quo as long as the same person remains in power. If that country has less-than-friendly relations with other nations, maintaining the status quo is likely to mean not solving those issues, and issues that persist longer are more likely to turn into sources of more serious conflict. More changes means more chances to make amends - or at least, that's the general reasoning behind this reaction.

    But this argument can be also inverted because not only the change from bad to good is possible, but also the change from good to bad. Knowing that sooner or later an Attila the Hun will occur, lifetime dictatorships are even preferable. Somehow it all sounds like "Periodic change is good!" without specifying what exactly is good with a change.

    @xdavidliu : We'll see.

    @ThorstenS. When the good changes to the bad, isn't that the exact instance when you don't want a lifetime of the status quo? Yes, you're right, change is not always good (many losing political party members will agree with this to varying extent), but term limits are a check on power. Change promotes *Justice* (the ideal) and allows flaws to be corrected. It promotes democracy because it forces politicians to adjust to social forces (in various ways, to various degrees). Change is not always good, but the alternative is worse.

    Russia has both a prime minister and a president. Putin had to leave the presidency for one term before he could run for president again. The elections in Russia are at least nominally multi party elections. None of this is true in China.

    @BurnsBA This is all correct, but concerning your statement "isn't that the exact instance when you don't want a lifetime of the status quo" it is not a question of wanting. *The dictator is not dependent on what people are wanting (ok, still need cronies and lackeys)* because this is the very definition of *dictatorship*.The dictator does not strive for checks on power, justice or promotion of democracy. What looks good for a democracy may be irrelevant for dictatorships: Many of them forced people to vote, is voting not fine? Not if there is only one selection without repercussions.

    Also worth noting that there's a fair bit of discontent over this *within China* so it's not just a Western reaction thing.

    @Anaximander Aside from the possibility for real change to occur, leaving one person in power for that long usually allows them to consolidate more and more power to themselves. Leaders who change on a regular basis will take a while to consolidate power after a change, making them more reliant on having the support of others, especially immediately after a change. Granted, this can become a health hazard for other high-ranking leaders, as the new dictator will often decide that others perceived as being a threat to their power may need to have a tragic accident.

    I think the main thing is that it smells an awful lot like "emperor".

    @ThorstenS. It's true that frequent change also allows for negative changes, but in this case, relations with China aren't excellent, so changes are more likely to be good than bad. Also, in general a country where the leader holds power for a long time tends towards a sort of inertia - the leader gains more power over time and becomes more determined to hold onto it, which makes them more likely to resort to drastic measures. Leaders who accept that their terms are limited are less likely to use corruption and/or violence to hold onto their office than those who plan on being lifelong rulers.

    @anaxinander Good argument. Thinking over it, a sign of a bad leader is exactly clinging to his position and making himself dic.....uh,sorry,sorry, "Great illuminating leader" for life.

    @EricTowers are you implying that there will actually be limits of any kind to Xi's power?

    @xdavidliu : Not visibly, at first.

    @EricTowers so later on there will? Who will be the ones to challenge him? Will he give up power voluntarily or will he put up a fight? I'm curious because I haven't seen the any dispute whatsoever to the implication of Xi basically being a dictator. Please explain further what you mean, thanks.

    @xdavidliu : Xi did not get this large of a concession without incurring significant private political debt. These debts come due, even for dictators who believe they can erase such debts by various methods. Or to over-summarize: which part of "we'll see" is hard to grasp?

    @EricTowers ah that makes sense. To answer your question, the entire part of "we'll see" is quite difficult for me to grasp; I personally found it rather vague, and since I may not be as familiar with the internal politics of the CCP as you are, it's not immediately obvious what those two words mean.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM