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China votes to allow its presidents to stay in office indefinitely

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By Chris Harris  with Reuters
China votes to allow its presidents to stay in office indefinitely

China’s parliament has today backed a move to lift limits on how long its presidents can stay in office.

It opens the door for President Xi Jinping — who will have his second five-year term as party chief approved later this week — to remain in power indefinitely.

The country’s ruling Communist Party put forward the constitutional amendment last month and it was passed by loyal party members on Sunday.

Critics attacked the move and suggested a Mao Zedong-type cult of personality was forming.

But the government quickly mounted a propaganda push, blocking some articles and publishing pieces praising the party, reported Reuters.

The limit of two five-year presidential terms was written into China's constitution after Mao's death in 1976 by Deng Xiaoping, who recognised the dangers of one-man rule and the cult of personality and instead espoused collective leadership.

The government has said lifting the term limits is about protecting the authority of the party with Xi at its centre. The party's official People's Daily has said this does not mean life-long terms.

While the presidency is important, Xi's positions as head of the party and head of the military are considered more important, and these titles are always given first by state media. With the passage of the amendment, now none of the posts have formal term limits.

The amendments also include inserting Xi's political theory into the constitution, something that was already done for the party constitution in October, and clauses to give a legal framework to a new super anti-corruption department.