China is inexorably moving towards dictatorship. The National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s Parliament, has endorsed an amendment to the Constitution to reverse a 35-year-old rule limiting the tenure of the President to two five-year terms. This has paved the way for Xi Jinping to continue in power indefinitely, putting him in the same league of Mao Zedong, founder of Communist China. Xi’s 10-year term was supposed to end in 2023. Under the present regime, the country has already seen greater curbs on freedom, including online censorship and arrest of dissidents. The fact that only two of the 2,964 delegates at the NPC voted against the constitutional amendment Bill shows the iron-like grip that Xi has come to wield over the party machinery. With this, China has moved from being a ‘one-party rule’ to a ‘one-man rule’. The move has essentially blocked the emergence of an alternative leader and put unbridled power over the party, the military and the state administration in Xi’s hands for years to come. He will now be Mao 2.0. The two-term rule was incorporated in the Constitution to block accumulation of power as was seen in the excesses during the Cultural Revolution under Mao. The development has huge implications for India at a time when Beijing is quite unabashed about its territorial ambitions and flexing its muscles in the region. The $60-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pak-occupied Kashmir, is the brainchild of Xi. Armed with unbridled powers, he is now expected to be more assertive in handling the international affairs.
Interestingly, Chinese Parliament has now included in the Constitution Xi’s political doctrine on ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era’, an honour bestowed on only two leaders in history — Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. The development marks a new point of inflexion in China’s decades-long reforms pioneered by Deng and provides a free hand to Xi to lay the road map for achieving the twin goals of making China a ‘moderately prosperous’ society by 2020 and an ‘advanced socialist nation’ by 2050. However, the faltering economy, mounding debts and the prospect of a trade war with the United States are among the key challenges facing the 64-year-old cult figure who already wields enormous power as CPC General Secretary, a post that has no term limit. Since becoming the party leader in 2012, Xi has amassed enormous powers. He also heads the all-powerful Central Military Commission that controls the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). There could be pitfalls ahead as a result of the concentration of sweeping powers in one man as Xi joins the global club of autocrats. History bears testimony to the suffering that the nations under the grip of dictatorship go through.