Plan for China term limits dates back to Deng Xiaoping era

Proposal came from academic 40 years ago

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A portrait of Deng Xiaoping in Shanghai in 2010.

A portrait of Deng Xiaoping in Shanghai in 2010. (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Plans to establish term limits for Chinese leaders, which current President Xi Jinping (習近平) wants to do away with, date back four decades to Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), reports said Thursday.

Xi has incurred international criticism for his moves, which have earned him accusations that he wants to be the new Mao Zedong and even further stifle attempts at reform in the direction of more freedom.

The first proposal for term limits in China came from an academic in 1979 and won the approval of then-leader Deng Xiaoping, who later launched economic reforms but also ordered the crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen student movement.

The revelation came from Bao Tong (鮑彤), once the political secretary to late Premier Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽), who was deposed over his conciliatory approach to the Tiananmen movement.

In the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, Chinese leaders felt that the absence of term limits had become a serious problem, Bao told Radio Free Asia in an interview.

Initially, the proposal met with a neutral approach, with nobody daring to oppose or support it, apart from Deng, who used it against his rival, Hua Guofeng (華國鋒), but then forgot all about it once he was in charge, Bao said.

Deng said a precedent by saying one thing and doing another, Zhao’s former secretary said, as reported by the Liberty Times.