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Xi set to secure lifetime presidency

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s rubber-stamp parliament was set yesterday to hand President Xi Jinping free rein to rule the rising Asian superpower indefinitely, with potential dissenting votes offering the only suspense in the historic vote.

The National People’s Congress is all but certain to approve a constitutional amendment that has stunned many in China, sparking an unusual bout of criticism that censors have scrambled to extinguish.

The move reverses the era of “collective” leadership and orderly succession that was promoted by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to ensure stability following the turbulent one-man rule of Communist China’s founder Mao Zedong.

Xi, 64, has consolidated power since taking office as general secretary of the Communist Party in 2012 – his most important title, which has no term limits but which his two predecessors both gave up after two terms.

He would have had to give up the presidency after the end of his second term in 2023, but he could now have a lifetime to push his vision of a rejuvenated China as a global powerhouse with a “world-class” military.

His rise has been accompanied by tighter restrictions on civil society, with the detention of activists and lawyers, and stricter limits on the already heavily controlled internet.

At the same time, he gained a measure of popularity among Chinese people through a relentless crackdown on corruption that has punished more than a million party officials, and sidelined potential rivals.

“I think that during the past five years, he has been carrying out a soft coup, including making the Politburo a mere figurehead,” Chinese political commentator Wu Qiang told AFP, referring to the 25-member Communist Party body one level under the ruling council.

“He wants to prevent power from falling into the hands of technocrats like Jiang (Zemin) and Hu (Jintao),” Wu said, referring to Xi’s two predecessors.

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