China to remove term limits for its leader

The world was expecting a successor to be named last October, but none was identified

Today's expression: Akin to
Explore more: Lesson #26
March 5, 2018:

The Communist Party of China has proposed changing to constitution to remove term limits for Chinese president Xi Jinping in a break with the country's tradition of changing leaders every decade. The move caused a backlash on Chinese social media. In the second half of the podcast, we talk about the English expression "akin to."

Take control of your English

Use active strategies to finally go from good to great

Listen

  • Learning speed
  • Full speed

Learn

TranscriptYour turn
No translationsEspañol中文FrançaisPortuguês日本語ItalianoDeutschTürkçePolski

China is about to remove term limits for its president

Hi everyone, I’m Jeff and welcome to Plain English, the podcast that goes at the right speed for English learners. On today’s episode, we’ll talk about the recent move in China to allow president Xi Jinping to continue in office beyond the traditional two terms. And in the second half of the program, I’ll show you how to use the English phrase “akin to.”

Before we dive in, just a quick reminder that the transcript for today’s program is available on the web site at PlainEnglish.com/26 and if you speak Spanish, Portuguese, French or Chinese, there are interactive translations of key words and phrases from English into your language. But even if your first language is something else, reading along as you listen can be very helpful if you have trouble making out each word.


China to remove term limits for its president

China’s Communist Party has moved to abolish term limits for the current president, Xi Jinping. According to China’s political tradition and its constitution, presidents have served only two five-year terms and top leaders have retired by the age of 68. The party usually names a successor well in advance to ensure that after one leader’s decade in office, the next leader transitions in smoothly, without abrupt changes in direction.

However, that appears to be changing. The world was expecting a successor to be named last October, but none was identified, raising suspicions that the 64-year-old Xi would stay beyond the traditional two terms and beyond the traditional retirement age of 68. Last Sunday, the party formally announced that it would propose to eliminate term limits, potentially allowing Xi to rule for life if he chooses. The country’s parliament, which is loyal to the Communist Party, will approve the change in a formality this week. When it passes, it will be the first change to the Chinese constitution since 2004.

All of China’s leaders hold three functions: president of the country, leader of the Communist Party, and leader of the armed forces. Within the party, there are rivalries and factions; however, in China, so much happens behind closed doors that it’s impossible to say for sure how important decisions in the government get made. Observers of China say that Xi has consolidated his power, removing his rivals through investigations and by personally taking on additional party roles that are usually done by others. By removing term limits, the party would be further strengthening the power of the current leader.

There are a few potential reasons for this move. It could simply be a bid for additional power by Xi himself. Some analysts say, however, that this could also be a response to radical changes on the world stage. With Britain’s vote to leave the EU, the rise of populist parties in Europe, and Donald Trump’s election in the United States, China could value stability at home more than ever.

Regardless of the reason, this is an important move for the world’s biggest rising power. For years, China has presented itself to the world as an alternate model of government to Western democracies. In the Chinese model, the government is stable, without the risk of sudden swings in policy. The party, which is essentially the government, follows elaborate internal rules and traditions and is not captive to the wishes of just one person. This system at least theoretically allows for internal debate and rivalries among individuals and ideas. People in China accept restrictions on personal freedom—such as internet censorship—in exchange for political stability and economic growth.

In many countries, governments remove term limits when leaders are unpopular, but in China, Xi remains popular. He has had success in recent years fighting corruption and extending China’s remarkable economic gains. Economic growth has been high, millions of people have moved from the countryside to the cities, the country’s high-tech infrastructure leads the world, and China has extended its influence abroad. So, if people have been generally satisfied with Xi so far, will they accept these political changes?

Like with many things in China, it’s hard to say, but there has been some backlash on the internet in the initial hours after the announcement was made. Some said that removing term limits is akin to making Xi a dictator; others made unflattering comparisons to North Korea. The Chinese government blocked certain web sites and the popular search engine Weibo blocked the search term “two term limit.” An article in the state-run media said that removing term limits doesn’t necessarily make Xi ruler for life—but they didn’t elaborate.


Before we get to today’s phrase, I wanted to ask a quick favor. For those of you listening in Apple Podcasts, you can help me out by leaving a written review right in the Apple Podcasts app. When you write a review, you’ll help other English learners around the world discover the program. Whenever I look for new podcasts or apps myself, I always want to see what other people think first, and the more reviews the better. So, if you like Plain English and want to spread the word, you can leave a review on Apple Podcasts so others can discover the show.

Speaking of new people discovering the show, I wanted to say hi to a few listeners. Cris and Ismael from Mexico and Abaseen from Afghanistan all sent emails saying hi over the last few weeks, so I wanted to say hi back and thanks for listening to Cris, Ismael and Abaseen. If you want to get in touch, you can reach me by email at jeff [at] plainenglish.com or on Twitter and Facebook under the user name PlainEnglishPod.

Learn English the way it’s really spoken

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language


Plus+ feature

Practice sharing your opinion

Get involved in this story by sharing your opinion and discussing the topic with others

Expression: Akin to