Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

【#499】Anachronistic Constitutional Amendment in China

Akio Yaita / 2018.03.08 (Thu)

March 5, 2018

     Yuan Shikai, who assumed the presidency of the Republic of China in October 1913, began to hope to become an emperor to enhance his power. As he leaked his hope to aides, state-run media immediately launched a public campaign that China should have an emperor. Petitioners from throughout China poured into Beijing to plea for Yuan’s enthronement. In December 1915, the parliament unanimously recommended Yuan to become the emperor. In response, Yuan declared himself as emperor and renamed the country as the Chinese Empire in 1916.
     However, public opinion calling for the revival of the empire represented a myth forged by Yuan’s aides rather than public consensus. Citizens reacted sharply against to the anachronistic revival of the empire. Students in Beijing led protest rallies that spread nationwide. Local military cliques also rose in revolt on a pretense to support the republic system. Yuan also came under harsh international criticism and was forced to abdicate only in 83 days from the enthronement.
     Chinese historians pass a stern judgement on Yuan who attempted to appropriate the country to advance his own ambitions, criticizing him as a thief wanting to steal the country.

2nd Yuan Shikai
     Now, Chinese President Xi Jinping is called “the second Yuan” among reformist intellectuals in Beijing because of a constitutional amendment submitted to the National People’s Congress that opened on March 5.
     The amendment would remove a two-term (10-year) limit for the presidential post, allowing one person to remain as head of state until he or she dies. As the amendment is designed specifically for President Xi who does not want to give up power, Xi is criticized for attempting to become an emperor like Yuan Shikai.
     “At a time when Japan’s Emperor considers to abdicate, the revival of a lifetime post is very anachronistic,” says one of many critics posting their comments about the constitutional amendment on Internet. As censors are too busy to remove such critical comments, large portal sites such as SINA and Baidu have removed posting spaces below news related to the constitutional amendment.

President Xi losing people’s support
     “The constitutional amendment may be unanimously approved but I think only a few party cadres support it from the bottom of their heart. The reason for voting for the amendment is a fear of revenge, as was the case with supporters for Yuan Sikai’s enthronement 100 years ago,” said a veteran Communist Party cadre in Beijing. “The constitutional amendment has led President Xi to lose people’s support further.”
     Not a few Japanese politicians or commentators praise Xi as a strong politician and call for developing good relations with Xi who is desperately concentrating power into his hands.
     However, it is doubtful that getting along with an anachronistic dictator appropriating a country would serve Japan’s national interests over a long term.

Akio Yaita is a deputy foreign news editor at The Sankei Shimbun