It’s official. The proposal to remove a check on the CCP’s chairman, Xi Jinping, was passed with an overwhelming majority. There were just two members that opposed the removal of the amendment, and three that abstained. Ever since the proposal made global headlines, all across the spectrum of democratic political news networks there was a sense of unease and foreboding. Many people, including political analysts and political historians, have sat with bated breath awaiting the death knell of the democratic progress of China.
Since Xi Jinping took office, China has seen economic growth, heightened political & social presence in the international playing field and a crackdown on domestic corruption. In addition to rooting out corruption within the country, he has also publicized his dedication to relieving poverty levels throughout the country.
In the face of Xi Jinping’s growing China, Chinese nationalism has been the fertile ground that has garnered support for his administration. Notions of a great and strong China are at the forefront of this decision. It’s even arguable that the decision to go through with the proposal is reasonable. The chairman is a strong leader. Under his leadership, the average Chinese person has seen standard economic stability. But that’s just one narrative, out of many. As most people know, China is home to about a billion people. Of those billion people, around 90 % of them are Han Chinese, the ethnic majority. The minorities, on the other hand, have alternating narratives.
From the perspective of the average Chinese office worker, Xi Jinping is a ‘good leader.’ (arguably better than Trump in some respects). These same workers travel to Beijing to find good jobs where there are few in their home towns. Some of these people are from provinces hours away from Beijing. They live and work in Beijing, and are able to see their families only when they have free time. Some of these people are contract workers, who are given apartments (some of which are shared), benefits and good pay. However, the pay is not enough to afford good housing in the city.
Many of them complain about not being able to afford housing, because it’s extremely expensive.
Interestingly enough, they don’t seem to blame the government for their problems with affordable housing. Their mindset is to work enough until they can afford it, because purchasing a house is important to many Chinese families.
I first heard about the proposal a few weeks ago, before it hit major news sources. My co-workers told me about the ‘piece of advice’ Xi Jinping gave lawmakers. I expressed my dubiousness about the proposal, and how historically, this sort of undermining of power checks never ends well. I also asked them how they felt, but most nervously chuckled. Others remained silent with unreadable expressions. One woman spoke up with a meek shrug, ‘we can’t talk about it.’
I read fear in their eyes and body language. Unease. It was clear they didn’t feel comfortable talking about it. Perhaps it’s because I’m a foreigner, or it’s because they prefer not to talk about politics at work. Or maybe it’s the Chinese propensity to censor oneself. What’s for sure, is that they didn’t like the sound of the ‘advice’ and they hoped lawmakers would not remove the term limit.
So, the question here is this: What do citizens do when lawmakers proceed with fundamental decisions without consulting public opinion?
This question hits closer to home than ever, due to Trump’s support of the removal of such a fundamental check on executive power. Autocracy is no joke, and if the President of the United States, a democratic nation, publicly states his support for such a measure, then he should resign. The Office of the President should be occupied by a person who is a staunch proponent and defender of democracy. It is important to understand that the removal of the constitutional amendment started with just a public statement by Xi Jinping.
It’s highly important that governments remember that they continue to survive only through the mutual cooperation of intersecting networks of people, corporations, and businesses. Constitutional checks on power should be respected, because one man can destroy decades of progress. There are countless historical examples of this. So I have to say, I am disappointed to see the slow, but impending break-down of democratic processes in China. On that same note, I am even more disappointed that the United States President supports it.
photo credit to: https://theday.co.uk/chosen-by-you/emperor-xi-and-the-great-chinese-power-grab