By Lao Gui (老鬼）
The painful lesson of the Cultural Revolution is that Mao Zedong’s rule for life brought endless disasters to the country. History proves that individuals who stay in power for too long will be distorted and perverted by the power, and make all kinds of capricious and lawless decisions. For example, in 1966, Mao Zedong called on the whole country to “revolt,” advocating that the revolt was justified and that all levels of government in China must be overthrown and power must be re-seized by the revolutionaries. As a result, 100 percent of the CCP chiefs in the country were attacked and denounced openy. There were countless cases of injustice, hundreds of millions of people were mistreated, their families were destroyed, and the national economy was on the brink of collapse. Such a ridiculous system is rare in the world.
So after the devastation of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping and other top leaders of the Communist Party of China learned the painful lesson of Mao Zedong’s lifelong power, thoroughly recognized the danger of the leader for life system, and formulated a system of term limit for China’s leaders. This was a major step forward in the reform of China’s political system in the 1980s, and a major step forward in aligning with international civilization.
Deng Xiaoping’s proposal to end the lifelong tenure system, a fundamental reform that concerns the future of the country, was highly approved and supported by the entire Communist Party and the Chinese people, regardless of if they side with the left, center or right. If there are any major reforms that the CCP made since 1978 that won the hearts of the people, namely: ending the lifelong tenure system and the planned economy. However, 2018 saw the CCP amend the constitution and escort the amended copy of the constitution to the meeting site of the People’s Congress under the barrel of a gun for approval, essentially to restore the de facto lifelong tenure system under Mao Zedong, which is completely against the will of the Chinese people.
Opposing the lifelong tenure system is for the sake of the country’s long-term stability. By implementing a term-limit system, even if a national leader makes a serious mistake, he or she can be corrected in time because the term-limit can avoid going further down the wrong path. This is good for the country and good for the leading cadres themselves.
In the following, I will make several points to argue for a term-limit system:
1. Lifetime system corrupts the mind and heart of those in power
A Chinese proverb goes: Running water is never stale and a door-hinge never gets worm-eaten. This is an objective law of the world. Moving in the universe keeps everything alive, not rotten.. The party chief in power for a long time, no rotation, no term-limit, will be corrupted by his own power, and become addicted to power. He or she will put personal obsession with power above the interests of the country and the people. Everything for him or her aims at hanging on to power for a long time, even if it means to turn progress back, or amend the constitution to abolish the term-limit system, casting off the people’s safety and well-being. Power is opium, once you taste it and get high, you will be addicted, unable to extricate yourself. Leaders who rule for life, such as Stalin, are bound to turn into psychopathy, suspicious of everything, incapable of tolerating any different views, fetish violent, who engage in constant purging, and issue an order in the morning and rescind it in the evening, and extremely erratic. The term limit for leaders is the cure for power addiction, which can prevent the country’s leader from being attached to the position of good. Changing the leader of a country periodically can promote healthy political metabolism, and it is also the trend of modern political civilization all over the world.
2. Lifelong tenure system runs against common sense
Human physique, health, cognitive power, memory, judgment, ability to correct errors have physiological limitations, and gradually weaken with aging. Therefore, any occupation must have an age limit, and when the limit is reached, the person retires. This is basic common sense. And the country’s No. 1 leader shoulders the heaviest responsibility, a stricter age limit must be imposed for him or her. In doing so, during his or her tenure in office, physical strength and brain power are in the best condition, in order to avoid like Mao Zedong in his later years who was feeble and sick, relying only on one or two individuals to communicate with the outside. The laws of nature limits the old man’s rule, inevitably clingng conservatively to the old syste, with out-of-dated information, lack of ability to innovate, obsessed with power, but also inevitably slow to react, confused and dumb, unable to keep up with the times. Therefore, no matter how much the country’s No. 1 leader himself wants to continue to stay on, there should be age limits, term limits, to mandatorily require him or her to retire, while promoting health and regular flow, to ensure continuous replacement of fresh blood.
3. Lifelong tenure system equals to personal dictatorship
Lifelong tenure system leads to the supremacy of “No.1 boss,” who becomes the embodiment of truth, and even to use “No.1 boss’” thought to unify people’s thinking, denying the correct views of scientists. Whether “No.1 boss” is educated or illiterate, as long as he or she becomes the paramount leader, he or she is God. Every word he or she uttered becomes the truth, which is prohibited to be questioned, and any views different from it are not allowed. No independent thinking, no speaking ill of the leader’s instructions. This tramples the party’s collective leadership principle, turning it into a personal dictatorship. Not only to rule the country by one person, but also to control people’s mind with one ideology, which seriously hampered the healthy development of science and technology and culture, squishing free space for academic research. The atmosphere of a hundred schools of thought, a hundred flowers blooming will no longer exist in China. When marching in unison on a bridge could cause resonance and make it collapse and kill people. With the “No. 1 boss’” ideas to unify the minds of all people will inevitably cause spiritual resonance, blocking the path of people to know the truth, suffocating the natural sciences and social sciences in the field of a variety of innovative knowledge and insight. The unification of ideas and dictatorship will only cause a major pause, depression and regression in science, technology and culture.
4. lifelong tenure system undermines the rule of law
This kind of selective anti-corruption is not fair nor just. The result often leads to a long period of detention, and cases with no trial, no sentence are common. This is the naked noncompliance of the law. The stability maintenance policy in fact treats the people as the enemy of the party-state, and there are literary inquisitions, and disrespect of human life, all of which lead to hostility and hatred pervading the whole society. Rule by police has become the social norm in the new era. Although we are in peacetime, security checks and body searches are carried out everywhere, and probing cameras are densely packed, SWAT teams line up ready for crushing protests, and police security checkpoints run all over the country, which is the only one seen in the world. Such a serious disruption of people’s life, and the prevention and control of the people has greatly intensified the conflicts between the government and the people, between the police and the people, and among the society.
5. Lifelong tenure system suppresses talents
A leader who has no merit, no ability, no virtue to rule but wants to rule the country through a lifelong tenure system, must engage in a personality cult to elevate himself in order to create a one-man monopoly. Cadres’ personal loyalty to the leader becomes the only criteria for cadres’ promotion, which is bound to cronyism. He has surrounded himself with a group of spineless sycophants who move up rapidly in the CCP power structure; the upright, honest, and talented individuals will never get promoted. The doings of the superior are imitated by their inferiors. The leadership at all levels also put sycophants in important positions, resulting in clusters of these individuals, leading to inbreeding and causing reverse elimination of capable cadres. Such a practice also causes a big slide in the quality of cadres. As long as they sing praises, bow to the leader as obedient subjects, even if they are seriously corrupt, they remain untouched, while a large number of both virtuous and talented, law-abiding cadres are suppressed. It can be said that the lifelong tenure system has raised one person only, cultivated a small group of sycophants skilled in political trickery, suppressing millions of the best talents around the country, who are capable, but are above brownnosing.
6. Lifelong tenure system makes the news media degenerate into leader’s glorification machine
The lifelong tenure system infinitely promotes the “No.1 boss””, so that the news media become his or her mouthpiece, parroting what he or she says, opposing what he opposes. The critical and supervisory function of the news media is completely lost, and it cannot help the righteous and suppress the evil, nor can it remove the violence and protect the law-binding, but is reduced to a record book of the personal activities of the “No.1 boss” and a list of praise. This kind of praise and flattery first of all, make the No.1 boss have an illusion that he is omnipotent, becoming more and more arrogant. He or she would make rash decisions, which leads to repeated mistakes. Secondly, as long as it is politically correct, by obeying the “No.1 boss”, poor reporting and fake news can be allowed to wantonly rampant, and touting the “No.1 boss” becomes more and more shameless, making the news media degenerated into a source of false information, window of personal worship, trench of chauvinist propaganda for brainwashing, and an example for fearing power and talking nonsense. This deeply poisons teenagers, accelerates social injustice, discord, dishonesty.
7. The lifelong tenure system turns No.1 boss into an emperor
The lifelong tenure system puts the national leader at the apex of supreme power for a long time, and the lack of checks and balances turns him or her into a de facto emperor over time. When going out, he or she is surrounded by the entourage. The whole city – roads, buildings, windows, doors – is closed. The security measures are so strict, far beyond an emperor’s imagination. This is done at the expense of serious disruption of people’s lives, resulting in the unprecedented intensified tension between the government and the people. The system allows the big boss to enjoy a monopoly, blocking the democratic channel to use collective wisdom, seriously detached from the masses of cadres. More importantly, it changes the boss into a more self-righteous, headstrong, who always acts arbitrarily. This kind of the big boss’ reliance on a few sycophants to advise to issue orders and take things for granted is most prominent during the Covid-19 pandemic: completely ignoring expert opinions, disregarding basic human rights, implementing extreme zero-Covid policy, engaging in violent enforcement of the policy, arbitrarily locking down cities, sealing districts, buildings and residents’ doors, and arbitrarily imprisoning the general public, creating the most serious social crisis in China after the Cultural Revolution. It has, in fact, killed an unknown number of innocent lives! The people’s lives are in danger and cries of grievances are heard all around. The lifelong tenure system enables the boss to care only about his or her personal “royal” authorities, regardless of the people’s lives, and to act as he or she pleases, which has endangered national security and basic livelihood.
Modern ships are made up of many compartments sealed to each other, so that if one of them leaks, the whole ship will not sink. The same is true for modern states, where we cannot allow one person to decide the death and life of a whole nation. But the lifelong tenure system makes the safety and security of the entire country depend on one person, and turns the country into a huge ship with only one compartment, which is as dangerous as eggs piled one on the other. Hitler was in power for 12 years and sank the Third Reich. Mao Zedong ruled for 27 years, tossed the country into poverty, and many peasants did not have enough food to feed themselves, nor clothing to put on. Putin’s 20 years in power have also brought Russia to its knees and left it in the doldrums.
Human history proves that unrestricted power is the root of all evil. Dictatorship hinders social progress. The leader-for-life system is wrong for the country and harmful for the people, dictatorship is unpopular! Xi Jinping has also said that power should be kept in a cage. The term limit system is the cage that can lock the highest power in, to prevent the “No.1 boss” being attached to power, refusing to retire when his time is due, and becoming corrupted and rotten. The baby’s diaper should be changed frequently so that the child can grow up healthy, and changing the national leader is good for the country’s health which is especially true.
On the eve of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China, I reiterate my opposition to the constitutional amendment in 2018 to abolish the two-term limit system for the President of the country. The term limit is the greatest result of China’s reform and opening up. If we want to continue to reform and open up, it is necessary to implement the term limit. Only this system can ensure the long-lasting peace and stability of the Chinese nation.
Down with the leader-for-life system! (打倒终身制!)
The rise and fall of the country is the responsibility of every man. I am feeling angry and depressed, and want to get it off your chest, even if my view is shallow.
This article first appeared in Yi Bao Chinese Version on 6/4/2022.