Trump praises Chinese president extending tenure ‘for life’
U.S. President Donald Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 3 after the ruling Communist party announced it was eliminating the two-term limit for the presidency, paving the way for Xi to serve indefinitely, according to audio aired by CNN.
“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.
It was not clear if Trump, 71, was making the comment about extending presidential service in jest. The White House did not respond to a request for comment late on March 3, Reuters said.
U.S. Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat, said on Twitter that “whether this was a joke or not, talking about being President for life like Xi Jinping is the most unAmerican sentiment expressed by an American President. George Washington would roll over in his grave.”
U.S. 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 U.S. Constitution approved in 1951 limits presidents to two terms in office.
In order to change the current prohibition, it would require initial support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress or support of two-thirds of state legislatures - and then would need to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.
China’s annual parliament gathering kicks off on Monday as Xi presses ahead with efforts to ward off financial risks without undermining the economy. The Communist party announced on Feb 25 the end of the two-term limit for the president - and the parliament is expected to ratify the move.
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 in November.
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.”
The Chinese move is widely seen as the culmination of the 64-year-old Xi’s efforts since being appointed leader of the ruling Communist Party in 2012 to concentrate power in his own hands and defy norms of collective leadership established over the past two decades. Xi has appointed himself to head bodies that oversee national security, finance, economic reform and other major initiatives, effectively sidelining the party’s No. 2 figure, Premier Li Keqiang.
Once passed, the constitutional amendment would upend a system enacted by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to prevent a return to the bloody excesses of a lifelong dictatorship typified by Mao Zedong’s chaotic 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.
Passage of the proposed constitutional amendment by the congress’ nearly 3,000 handpicked delegates is all but certain. But observers will be looking to see how many delegates abstain from voting as an indication of the reservations the move has encountered even within the political establishment.
Chinese authorities have tightly controlled discussion about the removal of term limits, scrubbing social media of critical and satirical comments. State media have been largely muted about the topic, but the official People’s Daily sought to reassure the public by saying in a commentary that the move did not signal a return to lifelong rule.