The roughly 3,000 delegates of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, voted almost unanimously on Sunday to end a two-term limit on the presidency, one of the main leadership posts held by Xi Jinping. While the overwhelming approval by the party-controlled congress was not a surprise, the repercussions go beyond just allowing Mr. Xi to stay on longer.
周日,中国立法机构全国人民代表大会的约3000名代表,几乎一致投票同意结束国家主席的两届任期限制,那是习近平的主要领导职位之一。尽管此举在由共产党控制的全国人民代表大会上获得压倒性的支持并不令人意外,但其影响不仅仅是让习近平得以继续留任。
Here’s what is at stake, and why ending the term limit matters.
下面介绍了它的利害关系,以及结束任期限制为何事关重大。
Why is the limit in place now?
为什么实行现在的限制?
One lesson that China drew from the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution was the danger of concentrating power in one supreme, unassailable leader who ruled for life.
中国从“文化大革命”的动荡中吸取的教训之一,就是把权力集中在一个至高无上、不容置疑并终身在位的领导人身上的危险。
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In 1982, when China was recovering from that chaotic era, lawmakers approved a new Constitution that said the president and also the vice president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms.”
1982年,在中国拨乱反正之际,立法者通过了一部新宪法。其中规定,主席和副主席“连续任职不得超过两届”。
It is sometimes said that Deng Xiaoping, who led China after Mao, introduced the term limit to prevent the top leader from again becoming too powerful. But that’s not entirely true. Back then the Chinese presidency was not such a powerful post. Deng wielded much of his power informally, without titles or term limits, and through his control of the military.
外界有时候会说,在毛泽东之后统治中国的邓小平提出任期限制,是为了防止最高领导人再次变得权力过大。但事实并非完全如此。那时,国家主席职位的权力还不像现在这么大。邓小平没有头衔和任期限制,借助对军队的控制,他以非正式的方式行使了很大的权力。
Even so, the politicians and legal experts who drafted China’s 1982 Constitution saw lifelong tenure as a recipe for tyranny, especially in a one-party state.
尽管如此,起草中国1982年宪法的政界人士和法律专家仍认为终身制是专制统治的祸因,尤其是在一党制国家。
“If someone stays in office for 15 years, the people won’t dare express their opinions to him,” said Fang Yi, one of the framers of the Constitution. “The French president begins with one term of seven years, with an option for a second term. But that’s different. They have opposition parties who pick their faults every day.”
“任期十五年,人民不敢向领导提意见,”参与制定宪法的方毅说。“法国总统一届任期七年,可连任一届,与我们不一样,他们有反对党,天天找碴。”
How did it become important?
任期限制是怎么变得重要的?
The presidential term limit became more important in the 1990s, when Deng prepared to pass power to his successor, Jiang Zemin.
90年代,当邓小平准备将权力移交给他的继任者江泽民时,主席任期限制的重要性增加了。
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Under Deng in the 1980s, there was turmoil in succession, as two protégés were forced to resign following student demonstrations. Deng tried to ensure the success of his final choice, Mr. Jiang, by setting him up in China’s three most powerful posts: Communist Party general secretary, chairman of the commission in charge of the military and the presidency, which Mr. Jiang took over in 1993.
在80年代邓小平统治期间,中国连续发生动乱,他的两名门生在学生示威后被迫辞职。邓小平试图确保他的最终人选江泽民的成功。他采取的方式是安排后者登上中国权力最大的三个职位:共产党的总书记、军事委员会主席和国家主席。1993年,江泽民接任国家主席一职。
But Deng also wanted to ensure that Mr. Jiang did not stay on indefinitely. He started a succession cycle by also promoting Mr. Jiang’s younger heir-apparent, Hu Jintao.
但邓小平也想确保江泽民不会无限期地留任。他通过提拔比江泽民年轻的接班人胡锦涛,开启了一个接替周期。
Under Mr. Jiang and later Mr. Hu, a new norm formed. The top leader had clear authority because he held all three main posts. But he had to hand them to a successor after about a decade.
在江泽民和后来的胡锦涛的统治下,新的规范形成。因为身兼三个主要职位,最高领导人权力分明。但在大约10年后,他必须将这些职位移交给继任者。
“The three-in-one leadership system and form — of party general secretary, state president and military commission chairman — is not only necessary but also the most fitting for a great party and a great country like ours,” Mr. Jiang said in 2004.
“党的总书记、国家主席、军委主席三位一体这样的领导体制和领导形式,对于我们这样一个大党、大国来说,不仅是必要的,而且是最妥当的办法,”江泽民在2004年说
That arrangement allowed two of the most stable transitions of power in China’s modern history, from Mr. Jiang to Mr. Hu in 2002, and then Mr. Hu to Mr. Xi six years ago.
这种安排使中国得以实现其现代历史上最稳定的两次权力交接:2002年从江泽民到胡锦涛,然后是六年前从胡锦涛到习近平。
Is the presidency powerful in China?
主席职位在中国权力大吗?
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In China, the political job that matters most is the general secretary of the Communist Party. The party controls the military and domestic security forces, and sets the policies that the government carries out. China’s presidency lacks the authority of the American and French presidencies.
在中国,最重要的政治职务是共产党的总书记。党控制着军队和国内安全部队,制定政策由政府去落实。中国的国家主席缺乏美国和法国总统所拥有的权威。
This difference is reflected in language. In Chinese, China’s president is called “zhuxi,” which really translates as “chairman.” Foreign presidents get a different title, “zongtong.” So in effect, Chinese people are referring to Mr. Xi as the “state chairman,” though in English his title is officially translated as “state president” to put him on an even footing with other world leaders.
这种差别反映在语言中。在中文里,中国的president被称为主席。外国领导人则被称为“总统”。所以,中国人实际上是把习近平称为“国家主席”,虽然官方翻译的英语称谓是“国家总统”(state president),这就把他与其他的世界领导人放在了平等的地位上。
Still, the Chinese presidency is not entirely ceremonial. The president has the power, acting with the legislature, to declare war or a state of emergency. In times of crisis, disagreement between a party leader and president could cause trouble.
尽管如此,中国主席并不完全是仪式性的。主席手握权利,根据立法机构的决定,宣布对外开战或国家进入紧急状态。在出现危机的情况下,党的领导人和国家主席之间的分歧可能会带来麻烦。
The presidency has become increasingly prominent thanks to China’s growing global stature. At home, Mr. Xi usually speaks as party leader; abroad, he appears as president, who is the formal head of state. Mr. Xi relishes the prestige of state visits to the White House or Buckingham Palace, which might be awkward if he were not president.
由于中国不断增强的国际地位,主席职位越来越重要。在国内,习近平通常以总书记的身份发言;在国外,他以主席——国家正式首脑——的形象露面。如果不是主席的话,习近平在白宫和白金汉宫受到的国事访问待遇就会有些奇怪。
Why change the system?
为什么要修改这个制度?
The official Chinese news media have said that Mr. Xi wants to abandon the term limit so that he can keep his trinity of leadership posts. According to Xinhua News Agency and other party-run news outlets, having a term limit on just the presidency is unreasonable because neither of Mr. Xi’s other two major posts — party leader and military chairman — has a similar limit.
中国官方新闻媒体称,习近平想取消任期限制,以便保持“三位一体”的领导体制。根据新华社和其他党媒的说法,只对主席职位规定任期限制是不合理的,因为习近平的其他两个重要职位——总书记和军队主席——都没有类似的限制。
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Of course, this argument does not address the other solution to that inconsistency: imposing limits on the party and military posts. His action leaves little doubt that Mr. Xi is clearing the way to remain top leader for a long time to come, and without clear rivals.
当然,这个观点避开了对这点不一致之处的另外一种解决办法:对党和军队的领导职位规定任期限制。习近平的行为毫无疑问地表明,他正在为自己未来长期担任最高领导人,并且不出现明显对手的目标扫清道路。
If the term limit remained, Mr. Xi would have to step down as president at the end of his next five-year term, in 2023. Any successor could potentially become a rival.
如果任期限制得以保留,习近平将不得不在2023年,也就是他的下一个五年任期结束时从主席职位上下台。任何继任者都有可能成为他的对手。
Mr. Xi seems determined to remain “three-in-one” leader because he sees himself on a historic mission to make China into a great power. Achieving that will take more than a decade, Xi has said.
习近平似乎决意要保留“三位一体”的领导体制,因为他认为自己背负着把中国重新变成一个伟大强国的历史使命。他曾说,达到这个目标需要超过十年的时间。
Last year, Mr. Xi showed his intent to stay in power by declining to promote a potential successor into the new Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s most powerful body. Mr. Xi and Mr. Hu both served political apprenticeships in the Standing Committee before taking over.
去年,习近平没有提拔一名潜在的继任者进入共产党最高权力机构政治局常委会,表明了他想继续掌权的计划。习近平和胡锦涛在接任主席职位前,都担任过政治局常委。
Will Xi will be leader for life?
习近平会成为终身领导人吗?
Mr. Xi has produced plenty of surprises in his first five years in power, not least his decision to abolish the term limit before his second term as president had even started. So predicting Mr. Xi’s future steps isn’t easy.
在他掌权的前五年,习近平带来了诸多意外,尤其是,他在自己的第二届主席任期还没有开始,就已经决定取消任期限制。因此预测他未来的举动并不容易。
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Even so, The People’s Daily said earlier this month that ending the presidential term limit does not “imply a system of lifelong leadership.” The point seems to be that while Mr. Xi may be around for a while, he won’t be another Mao, who remained in power even as he grew ill and incoherent with age.
即使如此,《人民日报》在本月初表示,取消主席任期限制“不意味着领导干部职务终身制”。这里的意思似乎是,虽然习近平可能长期掌权,但他不会成为另一个毛泽东,后者在年老体弱多病的情况下,仍然大权在握。
But Mr. Xi has not specified how many terms he plans on. Perhaps Mr. Xi himself does not have a firm idea yet. Or perhaps he figures he can enhance his power even further by keeping everyone else guessing.
但习近平没有具体表明他计划延续多少个任期。或许连他自己都还没有明确的想法。又或者,他认为通过保留悬念,可以进一步增强自己的权力。