Xi Jinping – or perhaps his aides and aids in the Communist Party – has proposed getting rid of the two term limit on anyone being the top dog in Chinese politics. He’s in a sufficient position of strength to be able to do this so, why not? Because rather the purpose of the two term limit is to get rid of Xi Jinping, or at least those like him. Powerful people who can dominate a country and political system.
Sure, Chinese politics works within the echoes of China’s past and the disaster that was Mao’s rule means no one’s all that keen on perpetual rule – until age overcomes at least – by any individual. There’s also that much older and longer lasting idea of the Mandate of Heaven. A centralised state dominated by the one man isn’t a new experience in that country or polity.
However, this is still a bad idea:
China’s Communist Party proposed eliminating a constitutional cap on presidential terms, solidifying signs Xi Jinping intends to cast off decades-old restraints on one-man rule and stay in power for many years to come.
No, really, not to be applauded.
China’s President, Xi Jinping, has become a dominant figure in Chinese politics, commanding the loyalty of the ruling party’s factions, the military and the business elite, and making him the most powerful leader since the country’s revolutionary founder, Mao Zedong.
That’s rather why.
China’s official news agency, Xinhua, announced the dramatic news on Sunday in a bland 36-word dispatch. It paves the way for Xi to remain in power well into the next decade and perhaps even beyond.
That announcement is here:
The Communist Party of China Central Committee proposed to remove the expression that the President and Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms” from the country’s Constitution.
It should be said that Xi hasn’t been a bad ruler by the standards of the system, time and place. He’s not, as some Chinese leaders have done, starved tens of millions through stupidity. He’s not even slowed down the surge for economic wealth which is something that most certainly could have been screwed up. However, he does have rather more power than it’s healthy for any individual to have. Thus the desirability of the term limits.
As our masthead proclaims we are realists around here. We’re fine with the idea that a society desires a figurehead, a polarising figure. Yes, of course we’d all prefer it if it was some set of glorious ideas which unified but that tends not to be how us humans work. So, fine, a masthead to which colours can be nailed. We’re also fine with the thought that government needs to exist which means that some people have to go and govern. We’re minarchists, in that we think less is more and that the necessary and desirable lists of government activity are pretty short, rather shorter than near all extant governments attempt. But that’s a matter of the length of the list, not the existence of a list itself. We’re also just fine with the idea of a dictator – but note in that Roman sense, not the more modern one. Cincinnatus is our model here, not Adolf.
All of which leads us to a distinctly non-conformist view of political and societal leadership. Pure figureheads, great, they can be there for life. We’re going to have someone or other pinning the VC on people and Brenda can carry on doing that ’till she drops. Beats President John Prescott after all. But people with real and great political power, no, they must be moved on. And a paradox is that in our minds the more effective they are, the better at both gaining and using real power, the faster they should be shuffled off the stage.
Xi Jinping’s not perfect by any means and he’s not done all that badly by China either. He’s been effective at gaining, exercising and keeping power. That’s why there should be those term limitations to send him back to his plough.