CARTOON: All Hail Emperor Xi

CARTOON: All Hail Emperor Xi
What you need to know

All bets are off now China President Xi Jinping has no limit to his time in power.

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“We must keep firmly in mind our sacred duties,” said Hu Jintao upon announcing in 2012 that he would step down as China's president to make way for Xi Jinping, in what was only the second orderly transition of presidential power the country had experienced since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Clearly, Xi does not see continuing the nascent transition as a duty, sacred or otherwise.

On Feb. 25, the state-run Xinhua News Agency quietly released proposed changes to China's constitution that would remove restrictions on China's president and vice-president that they serve a maximum of two five-year terms, paving the way for Xi to retain power until his death. The changes must still be ratified by the National People’s Congress, which opens March 5, but this is little more than a rubber-stamp formality.

Xi's power move is hardly surprising given the lack of a clear successor during last November's 19th Party Congress. At the time, much was made of the absence of Xi's chief anti-corruption lieutenant and CCP bigwig Wang Qishan, who at 69 was in any case deemed a little too old to be following in Xi's footsteps come 2023, as were the six other men who make up Xi's Politburo Standing Committee.

Yet the fell swiftness with which Xi has thus removed constraints that fellow Party heavyweight Deng Xiaoping worked hard to put into place have rightly startled observers at home and abroad. Deng viewed term limits as his final tasks, one which aimed to avoid a repeat of the terror and disorder experienced under the dictatorship of Mao Zedong while allowing the CCP to evolve and renew.

Unsurprisingly, Chinese social media has lit up at the news, forcing the country's censors into overdrive as they try to eliminate any mention of what is without doubt the most controversial move Xi has made since assuming power in 2013, trumping his anti-corruption purges and instillation of Xi Thought in the constitution, among others. The censors' work includes removing references to Winnie the Pooh, the cartoon bear with which Xi is often satirically compared online due to their resemblance - both are portly and retain a slightly gormless expression.

Xi's track towards absolute control in China shows he is anything but gormless. With domestic challenges now neatly tied up, the worrying question is what "Emperor Xi", as he is being hailed by observers, will do with all his power.

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Editor: David Green