Sometimes an announcement succeeds in being both unsurprising and shocking. It had long been evident that China’s Xi Jinping would not — indeed, could not — step down from power. He has made too many enemies, particularly through his anti-corruption campaign, even if he wanted to go, which seems unlikely. Yet the announcement that the two-term limit on the presidency is to go, is still shocking. What seemed likely is now a fact. Xi has discarded the attempt by Deng Xiaoping to institutionalise checks on the power of China’s leaders — itself a reaction to the wild excesses of the era of Mao Zedong. What is re-emerging is strongman rule — a concentration of power in the hands of one man. It now looks a bit like "Putinism with Chinese characteristics". True, even before this decision, it had been possible for Xi to retain his positions as head of the party and commander-in-chief, indefinitely. The term limits applied only to the intrinsically less powerful office of president. Yet if h...

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