Xi Jinping won’t be the first world leader with no term limits
As someone who grew up in the West and studied politics for five years, I remember how discussions in tutorial class would frequently turn to the principles of democracy and dictatorship.
As China embarks on a constitutional amendment to allow the president to stay in office beyond two terms, many have been caught by surprise – not because a single-party state has term limits, but because President Xi Jinping wishes to rule beyond 2022. Even though US President Donald Trump has praised Xi over moving to end term limits through revising the constitution, many in the West find this unpalatable.
However, unlimited terms of office is a common feature of democracies, with leaders winning over constituents to stay in power beyond two terms.
When William Pitt the Younger became prime minister at just 24, he did not know he would lead Britain into the Napoleonic Wars, or that he would stay in office for 18 years. Margaret Thatcher, at over 11 years the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century, won three terms in office before being forced out by her own party.
Angela Merkel has just negotiated a coalition to begin her fourth term as chancellor, to lead Germany for the 13th year running. In Asia, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore led his party to eight election victories and stayed in power for nearly 31 years, transforming Singapore from a chaotic colony to a modern metropolis.
The system of unlimited terms of office is often categorised as dangerous, as it raises the possibility of oppression, tyranny and nepotism, and there are examples arguing such a case. On the other hand, many stable leaders who reigned for long have proved themselves to be effective and outstanding statesmen, steering their nations through difficult times and leaving a significant legacy for generations to come.
China is at a crossroads and President Xi needs to prove that the current political and economic structure can reduce poverty, regain the nation’s global position and revive its global potential. If he aims to improve people’s livelihoods, reform the accountability system within the party and make the nation prosperous again, why should we obstruct his ambitions?
Henry Yau, Tai Po