Why Did China Allow Its Presidential Term Change?
In March, the maximum term of office for a Chinese president was abolished in the constitution, meaning a Chinese president would be able to stay indefinitely in power.
An overwhelming majority of The National People’s Congress in China voted to repeal the presidential term limit with 2,958 in favor, two against, and three abstaining.Western media reported widely about the constitutional amendment, with the general reaction of American reporters and the American public seeming to be one of disbelief and criticism.This kind of decision has never been made in developed countries, so naturally, people in the US were skeptical of this major political change. Still, as a Chinese student living in America who views the situation from both perspectives, I was curious as to why Americans and Chinese people have such conflicting views on the subject, and I was also curious as to whether the reactions reported by the Chinese and American media were reflective of how people truly feel.To begin my investigation, I created a survey to record how people from both countries feel about the decision.
Reaction choices were: supports, does not support, don’t know or don’t care, and other. I polled 25 Americans and 25 Chinese people from different age groups and backgrounds. The results reflected the media’s coverage, with 100% of Americans saying they do not support the decision because they believe competition is necessary and helpful to a country’s successful development.The President of the United States has a maximum term of eight years, so Americans hope to choose the next President through fair competition and new demand, allowing for changes that can make America stronger and more adaptive. For Americans, the government is a constantly evolving.Every person has the right to participate and vote in their best interest, and they believe that their voice, together with the voices of others who share similar opinions, can make an impact.
On the other hand, about 90% of Chinese people surveyed supported the decision.The people who supported it expressed wanting a continuity of policy. Within 100 years, China faced the overturn of the rule of dynasty, the impact brought by WWII, Civil War, and Cultural Revolution. China needs a stable government and policy, and people are afraid to lose what they have worked for thus far. In the past, each time a new president came to power there was a shift in economic policy and state-owned enterprise, causing valid uncertainty and fear in its citizens. The other 10% of Chinese people who don’t care about this decision say is because China only has one political party, and they don’t believe electing a new individual as president would make a significant change in how the government operates.
The US has two parties in power. Americans can choose senators to vote on their behalves for a new President, making Americans more sensitive to politics. When the US government makes a decision, it needs to go through a long process of argumentation and must then obtain the approval of parliament, so any change in policy will take a long time to implement.However, China has one communist party.All political decisions are made within the party and are implemented immediately.This system has led China to develop rapidly in areas such as technology and production, but has also caused the Chinese people to feel powerless in the politics of their country and to thus focus on what they can control in their day to day lives instead.
Another factor I believe contributes to the dissonant reactions of American and Chinese people to the presidential term amendment is the difference in the education systems in each country. In the US, public schools are free from kindergarten to high school.There are also a variety of choices for higher education for all ages such as 2-year community schools, 4-year undergraduate schools, and extension education, which makes pursuing higher education accessible. In China, free education is only applied from grade one to nine. Many kids stop studying after middle school, and only about 50% can afford going to high school.
Less than 10% of the population gets a college education. Due to the sweeping low level of education and the insufficient knowledge about government operation, people don’t have the tools to understand and consider government issues. Since most Chinese citizens don’t participate in the elections directly, people often think of the government as independent and cannot evaluate the government freely, which result in the public lacking concern about the government. Staggering disparities in GDP per capita, perhaps a byproduct of the education system, also create a difference in mentality in China and America.In the US, GDP per capita is about $55,000.
In China, it is about $8000. In the US, most people have a home, health care and retirement security.In China, many people don’t have stable jobs or the ability to own a home. Although they have minimal health care, they don’t have retirement security.The quality of life in China has not caught up to the success of its cutting-edge technology.Although big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are growing, even people with respectable, stable jobs can’t afford rent in those cities after satisfying their basic needs.
In rural areas (where most of the population resides) people make minimum wage and struggle to keep their families afloat financially.In the United States, the majority of people don’t have to worry about their basic needs being met.As unstable as America may seem to be nowadays, the quality of life is relatively high and consistent, allowing people to engage in thought and action that doesn’t center around “survival.” I think it is important to learn to think from each other’s standpoint. In this situation, the Chinese decision to support the government is understandable.
If Americans think about China from the standpoint of a free and thriving nation, it is difficult to understand the perspective of the Chinese people. China is still developing and hopefully more change is in its future. In order to provide its people with economic stability and certain basic rights, China still has a long way to go.