Week in Focus: Xi Embraces Lifelong Rule

Week in Focus: Xi Embraces Lifelong Rule
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Xi Jinping presides over a potentially momentous week in history.

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This week was dominated by Xi Jinping's decision to abolish the limits of two five-year terms on the presidency and vice-presidency of China, paving the way for the 64-year-old to rule for life.

For China watchers, Xi's thrust came as little surprise, especially given the absence of a clear successor at last November's 19th Party Congress in Beijing.

Various commentators heralded the move as officially marking the end of the Reform Era, which had had a gradual erosion of the role of the Party and State in favor of the market since Deng Xiaoping started the implementation of reforms in the late 70s, and had its apotheosis in the 18th Party Congress of 2013.

Despite reassurances by Xi's economic aide Liu He to Davos in January that such reforms would continue, particularly in the finance and wider service sectors, most observers suggest suggest the path from here on in is of even tighter Party control over organs of State and the economy that have accompanied Xi's ongoing crackdown on corruption.

Reaction also parsed criticism the Xi's actions attracted at home, as well as the Communist Party's efforts to censor it online. The censors' work include removing patents to Winnie the Pooh, the cartoon bear with which Xi is often satirically compared due to their resemblance, with one wag writing under a picture of Pooh hugging a jar of honey: "Find the thing you love and stick with it."

Not all the censors' efforts were successful, with open letters circulating from prominent business and media figures warning warning that Xi's decision opens the door for a return of the personality cultism that plagued the country in the dark days of Mao. "My generation has lived through Mao. That era is over. How can we possibly go back to it?" said one online commentator.

In Taiwan, the passage through the U.S. Senate of the Taiwan Travel Act, which notionally facilitates more frequent high-level official exchanges between the US and Taiwan, was warmly welcomed by Taiwan and condemned by Beijing, though its true impact awaits the verdict of President Trump .

Beijing was also busy warning against the formation of the The Island of Joy and Happiness Coalition (喜樂島聯盟) in Taiwan, a political coalition aiming to push for a referendum on Taiwanese statehood backed by heavyweight figures including former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). The coalition has its work cut out as it must first convince Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers to amend the only recently passed Referendum Act to allow for constitutional change.

Finally, South Korean President Moon Jae-in reignited seemingly irresolvable enmity with Japan over the latter's wartime use of so-called comfort women, or sex slaves, labeling the practice a "crime against humanity" and warning that despite a 2015 deal under which the the two sides agreed to settle the dispute, "To resolve the comfort women issue, the Japanese Government, the perpetrator, should not say the thing is closed."


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