China-US relations

Donald Trump praises Xi Jinping over move to end term limit ... ‘maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday’  

But Beijing says it doesn’t want to export its governance model or ask other countries to follow its practices

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2018, 10:06am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2018, 5:44pm

Beijing does not intend to export its governance model or ask other countries to follow its lead, a government official told media on Sunday, hours after US President Donald Trump praised Xi Jinping over a move to scrap the presidential term limit.

While the Communist Party’s proposal to remove the limit of two five-year terms – meaning Xi could stay in power indefinitely – has sparked criticism and fears of a return to strongman politics, Trump said he was fine with the idea. He even suggested the United States could “give that a shot someday”.

“He’s now president for life, president for life. And he’s great,” Trump said, according to audio of excerpts of Trump’s remarks at a closed-door fundraiser in Florida aired by CNN. 

“And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday,” Trump said to cheers and applause from supporters.

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But for Beijing, Trump’s praise is not needed. 

“China will walk its own way. We will neither import foreign models nor export our own model – and we will not ask other countries to copy our practices,” Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the National People’s Congress and former Chinese ambassador to the US, told reporters in Beijing. 

Zhang was not responding to Trump’s comments but giving a general statement on China’s policy.

“Of course, if some countries are interested in China’s development experiences and practices, we are willing to discuss and share these with them,” Zhang added.

Ni Feng, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Trump’s comments suggested the US president was unlikely to prod China over its ideology. 

“He really doesn’t care about [ideological differences],” Ni said.

US presidents by tradition served a maximum of two four-year terms until President Franklin Roosevelt was elected a record four times starting in 1932. An amendment to the US constitution approved in 1951 limits presidents to two terms in office.

China’s annual parliamentary gathering kicks off on Monday as Xi presses ahead with efforts to ward off financial risks without undermining the economy. The party announced on February 25 the end of the two-term limit for the president – and the parliament is expected to ratify the change to the constitution.

During the remarks, Trump praised Xi as “a great gentleman” and added: “He’s the most powerful [Chinese] president in a hundred years.” 

Trump said Xi had treated him “tremendously well” during his visit to Beijing in November.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment late on Saturday.

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Trump has often praised Xi, but in January Trump told Reuters the United States was considering a big “fine” as part of a probe into China’s alleged theft of intellectual property. 

He has been critical of China’s trade policies.

Trump told The New York Times in December that because of North Korea he had “been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war”. 

Additional reporting by Reuters