On July 15, socialist country Cuba announced revisions to its Soviet-era constitution. Its chief reforms include officially recognizing private property and creating a prime minister position that splits power with the president and is responsible for head of government duties. Of particular note, however, is the introduction of presidential term limits: while Cuba’s Communist Party will still retain a tight hold over the nation’s political sphere, its presidents are now limited to serving two consecutive five-year terms.
On the other hand, China went in the opposite direction in late February when it abolished its two five-year term limits for the presidency and vice-presidency, clearing a path for President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely beyond 2023. To ensure that Mao Zedong’s personalistic dictatorship did not taint future rule in China, Deng Xiaoping initially instituted term limits in the 1980s, but did not impose them upon two other key positions – chairman of the Central Military Commission and, most importantly, general secretary of the Party – held by Chinese leaders since Jiang Zemin. Critics believe holding all three of these positions indefinitely may mean the hyper-centralization of power, a reluctance for lower-ranking officials to speak up and change policies, and senior Party leaders resisting stepping down.
While Chinese censors took care to scrub away dissenting opinion through heavy-handed guiding of media coverage and temporarily shuttering popular discussion platforms, the move nonetheless sparked widespread dissent and lament. Lawyers in particular were warned not to express opposition, lest they have their licenses suspended.
Given this recent historical backdrop, Chinese netizens have naturally gravitated towards commenting on such reforms, with mixed sentiments. CDT has translated a selection below:
User6543899121 (@用户6543899121): Now with no more than two consecutive terms, Cuba is slapping an old friend in the face.
XXXdarling: China is closely observing Cuba’s recent actions. China’s attitude towards this has been consistent. We hope Cuba can realize its errors and mend its ways, rather than stray farther and farther from the socialist road!
Chentufeiyang4321 (@尘土飞杨4321): Cuba is clearly insinuating something here! Boycott Cuba! Don’t buy their goods.
RenRRxiaokanfengyun (@任RR笑看风云): Dammit, they’re clearly shooting themselves in the foot // @freeeloooop: Ay, ay, ay, why take the roundabout road?
Zhangdaleiwhy (@张大磊why): Why not follow global trends?
Huabeiyangshu (@华北杨叔): Cuba betrayed us, now there’s just North Korea left.
Guilinchengxin (@桂林诚信): Abolishing dictatorship from the constitution is one great leap for democracy.
Wuhanyanjingwangzi (@武汉眼镜王子): A constitution can be amended.
Liaowukuaile (@了无快乐): They’ve changed camps! Congratulations!
Glz4821: Although this was slow in coming, it is progress made with great historical significance. Thumbs up.
Youlan8985 (@幽兰8985): They persisted for so many years before finally admitting they’d walked the wrong path.
Liuchuanzhizhi (@流川志志): Here’s another country who didn’t need to touch the stones to cross the river and yet still reached the shore.
More CDT coverage on China’s abolishment of term limits can be found here.