Thursday, 1 March 2018

China lifts President Xi Jinping's term limit

Spectre of one-man rule looms as China lifts President Xi Jinping's term limit




Stuff.co.nz,
27 February, 2018



For some Chinese, their feelings about plans to lift term limits to allow President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely can be represented best by a cuddly stuffed bear.



Social media users shared images of Winnie the Pooh hugging a jar of honey along with the quote, "Find the thing you love and stick with it."



The Disney bear's image has often been compared to Xi, prompting periodic blocks on the use of Pooh pictures online.


Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China, ruled for more than three decades until 1976.



Other online commenters wrote, "Attention, the vehicle is reversing" - an automated announcement used by Chinese delivery vehicles - suggesting that China is returning to the era of former dictator Mao Zedong or even imperial rule.


Analysts say the ruling Chinese Communist Party's move to enable Xi to stay in power indefinitely will ensure some degree of political stability while also reviving the spectre of a return to one-man rule.



In a sign of the leadership's sensitivities, Chinese censors moved quickly Monday to remove satirical online commentary about the development.



A day after the party announced a proposed constitutional amendment ending term limits, internet users found it difficult to signal approval or disapproval by changing their profiles. Key search topics such as "serve another term" were censored.


The country's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress, is all but certain to pass the amendment when it meets for its annual session early next month. Under the 1982 constitution, the president is limited to two five-year terms in office, but Xi - already China's most powerful leader since Mao - appears to want additional terms to see through his agenda of fighting corruption, eliminating poverty and transforming China into a modern leading nation by mid-century.



Or, some speculated, he may simply wish to retain near-absolute power for as long as possible.


"It is most likely that it will turn into a post of lifelong tenure," said Zhang Ming, a retired political scientist who formerly taught at Beijing's Renmin University.



A retired Beijing railroad worker, who gave only his surname, Liu, said he approved of Xi's performance over his first five years in office and voiced no objection to the lifting of term limits.



"As the leader, he has done pretty well in terms of reform and economic growth," said Liu, 67. "In foreign policy, he also did a good job by taking tough positions in the face of provocations from the US."



Xi has made robust diplomacy and a muscular military posture in the South China Sea and elsewhere a hallmark of his rule and more can be expected, experts said.



In terms of trade relations with the US, entrenched differences between the world's No 1 and No 2 economies will likely remain, said James Zimmerman, former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.



"This announcement on the one hand potentially means continuity, predictability, and stability. But, on the other hand, it also means more of the same; namely, stalled market reforms and limitations on market access," Zimmerman said.



Professor and political commentator Hu Xingdou said he doubted that Xi wants to be president-for-life, but there were concerns that China could "slide into a kind of fascism or personal dictatorship which will cause very serious consequences."



"Many consider this a lifetime tenure, but I think it will probably be extended to three or four terms. Maybe an unspoken agreement has been reached inside the Chinese Communist Party that one has to step down after three or four terms," Hu said.



Others pointed out that authoritarian rule without term limits often leads to abuses and severely complicates the succession process.



In the near term, "this move could actually increase stability, since there would presumably be less jockeying for power," said William Nee, an Amnesty International researcher on China. "In the long run, however, this will probably further complicate the perennial problem that authoritarian states confront in finding a way to peacefully and orderly transfer power."



However long Xi wishes to hold on to office, he currently faces little opposition from within the party or mainstream society. Xi already has a firm grip on power as head of the military and party general secretary, a position for which there are no term limits, and has eliminated all challenges to his leadership.



China holds no competitive elections for leadership posts, and the body responsible for reappointing Xi to a second five-year term and amending the constitution next month generally approves the party's pre-ordained decisions.



Xi appeared to signal his intention at last year's party national congress by breaking with the convention of appointing an heir-apparent to the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.



In addition, Xi has already won two highly significant victories in being named the "core" of the current generation of party leaders, and having his eponymous governing philosophy inserted into the party constitution at last year's congress.



Recent months have also seen a growing number of references in state media to Xi as "leader," a minimalist title reserved up until now for Mao. "People love the leader of the people," read a commentary on the website of state broadcaster CCTV on Monday.



Yet, extending his rule while centralising power also poses political risks for Xi, making him solely responsible for dealing with knotty problems including the ballooning public debt, an anemic public welfare system, unemployment in the bloated state sector and pushback against China's drive for regional dominance and global influence.



In recent months, critics have pointed to two major policy missteps.



An effort to cut winter air pollution in the frigid north by slashing coal use had to be reversed after factories were left idle and millions of people shivering in their homes.



Around the same time, a push to clear unregistered residents from Beijing and other cities in the name of safety and social order was roundly criticised for throwing migrant families out of their homes in the dead of winter.



Xi's rule has been characterised by a relentless crackdown on critics and independent civil society voices such as lawyers netted in a sweeping crackdown on legal activists that began in July 2015.



Following the passage of the constitutional amendment, "there will be even less tolerance of criticism," said Joseph Cheng, a long-time observer of Chinese politics now retired from the City University of Hong Kong.




"The regime will be even more severe in all kinds of repression," Cheng said

What's Going Down In China Is Very Dangerous – Part 1




Liberty Blitzkrieg,
27 February, 2018



Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,


I’m sure all of you are aware of the dramatic power play pulled off over the weekend by China’s Communist Party to eliminate term limits for both the president and vice president.


Prior to the move, Chinese leaders have stuck to two five-year terms since the presidency of Jiang Zemin (1993-2003), but that’s about to change as wannabe emperor Xi Jinping positions himself as indefinite ruler of the increasingly totalitarian superstate.

While the weekend announcement was illuminating enough, I found the panicked reactions by Chinese authorities in the immediate aftermath far more telling. The country’s propagandists took censorship to such an embarrassing level in attempts to portray the decision as widely popular amongst the masses, it merely served to betray that opposite might be true.

China Digital Times compiled a fascinating list of words and terms banned from being posted or searched on Weibo. Here’s just a sample of some I found particularly interesting.
  • The Emperor’s Dream (皇帝梦— The title of a 1947 animated puppet film.
  • Disney (迪士尼— See also “Winnie the Pooh,” below.
  • personality cult (个人崇拜) — Read more about the image-crafting campaign that has been steadily cultivated by state media over Xi’s first term.
  • Brave New World (美丽新世界— See also “1984,” below.
  • my emperor (吾皇)
  • Yuan Shikai (袁世凯) — Influential warlord during the late Qing Dynasty, Yuan became the first formal president of the newly established Republic of China in 1912. In 1915, he briefly re-established China as a Confucian monarchy.
  • Hongxian (洪憲— Reign title of the short-lived, re-established monarchy led by Yuan Shikai, who declared himself the Hongxian Emperor. After much popular disapproval and rebellion, Yuan formally abandoned the empire after 83 days as emperor.
  • Animal Farm (动物庄园)
  • — While the letter “N” was temporarily blocked from being posted, as of 14:27 PST on February 26, it was no longer banned. At Language Log, Victor Mair speculates that this term was blocked “probably out of fear on the part of the government that “N” = “n terms in office”, where possibly n > 2.”
  • emigrate (移民— Following the news, Baidu searches for the word reportedly saw a massive spike.
  • disagree (不同意)
  • Xi Zedong (习泽东)
  • incapable ruler (昏君)
  • 1984
  • Winnie the Pooh (小熊维尼— Images of Winnie the Pooh have been used to mock Xi Jinpingsince as early as 2013. The animated bear continues to be sensitive in ChinaWeibousers shared a post from Disney’s official account that showed Pooh hugging a large pot of honey along with the caption “find the thing you love and stick with it.”
  • I oppose (我反对)
  • long live the emperor (吾皇万岁)
The full list is far more extensive and ridiculous, but the key point is that such a pathetic and panicked response from government censors highlights government insecurity, not strength

I fully agree with a recent observation made by Charlie Smith, co-founder of GreatFire.org:
Smith said he believed Beijing had underestimated the outrage its decision would cause. “The response from Chinese netizens indicates that Xi may have miscalculated how this would be received by the general public. Hence, he has asked the censors to put in overtime and things like the letter ‘N’ end up as collateral damage.”

The internet response to the Communist Party’s move to abolish term limits was not what leadership expected or desired, which prompted a panicky and desperate attempt to immediately clean up internet discourse.

It’s pretty sad when a government in charge of the lives of over a billion people is terrified of Winnie the Pooh memes.


The huge tell that China was about to take a major totalitarian turn occurred last year with the draconian government response to Bitcoin and crypto currency exchanges generally. The people of China were embracing the technology as much as anyone else and were in a perfect position to be global leaders in this paradigm changing new ecosystem. Xi responded to this by shutting the whole thing down.

Not only did he dash the enthusiasm, drive and talent of some of his country’s smartest technologists and entrepreneurs, but he also made it clear to the world that the Chinese model will continue to be one of command and control, rigid hierarchy and centralization. This is a tragic and historic mistake, and I think the coming brain drain out of China could be massive. This provides an opportunity for more open nations to scoop up some serious talent as they look to leave. As noted previously, Chinese authorities banned the word “emigrate” earlier this week, which should certainly tell you something.

As someone who’s watched his own government turn increasingly opaque, corrupt, authoritarian and unconstitutional, I feel empathy for the tens, if not hundreds of millions, of Chinese horrified that their hopes of a more free society appear dashed for the foreseeable future. Making matters worse, the surveillance state that’s been installed across the country is science fiction level scary.

In case you missed the following video clip of the China’s all-seeing spy camera network, take a watch.


If that’s not wild enough, Chinese police are now starting to become equipped with fascial recognition eyeglasses.

From Verge:
China’s police have a new weapon in their surveillance arsenal: sunglasses with built-in facial recognition. According to reports from local media, the glasses are being tested at train stations in the “emerging megacity” of Zhengzhou, where they’ll be used to scan travelers during the upcoming Lunar New Year migration. This is a period of extremely busy holiday travel, often described as the largest human migration event on Earth, and police say the sunglasses have already been used to capture seven suspects wanted in major cases, as well as 26 individuals traveling under false identities.
The sunglasses are the latest component in China’s burgeoning tech-surveillance state. In recent years, the country has poured resources into various advanced tracking technologies, developing artificial intelligence to identify individuals and digitally tail them around cities. One estimate suggests the country will have more than 600 million CCTV cameras by 2020, with Chinese tech startups outfitting them with advanced features like gait recognition.

Let this be a lesson to U.S. citizens, as well as citizens across the world. Never, ever allow a massive, unaccountable surveillance system to be constructed and implemented in your society for any reason. It will always ultimately be abused by a power hungry despot to seize and then maintain power.

Finally, one major reason I’m so concerned about what’s happening in China is because it adds a huge element of geopolitical risk to the global equation and greatly increases the likelihood of worldwide conflict.

Tomorrow’s piece will focus on this angle.


‘I disagree’ The phrase China has BANNED online to silence discontent of communist party

CHINA has banned the phrase “I disagree” on social media in a bid to stop any objection over the Communist party’s plans to stop the presidential two-term limit which would allow President Xi Jinping to rule beyond 2023.

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