China’s Communist Party is calling for the removal of presidential term limits, the official Xinhua news agency reported Sunday, paving the way for Xi Jinping to remain as head of state after 2023.

The party’s Central Committee has proposed deleting from the constitution the stipulation that a president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms” of five years, Xinhua said.

China’s President Xi Jinping drinks wine as he makes a toast during a banquet in Hong Kong on June 30, 2017. Photo Dale de la Ray/AFP.

Xi, who is also party chief and considered to be China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, has been president since 2013 and would step down in 2023 under the current system.

The proposed change, which would also apply to the vice-president, will be submitted to legislators at the annual full session of the National People’s Congress starting March 5.

At the 19th five-yearly party congress last October, Xi saw his personal political philosophy included in the party’s charter, an honour only accorded to one previous leader, Mao, during his lifetime.

Since taking over as party general secretary in late 2012, Xi has waged a remorseless battle against corruption, which has seen more than one million people punished. Some see the campaign also as a means for him to eradicate internal opposition.

Xi’s presidency has been marked by the return of a personality cult and a major crackdown on democracy and human rights.

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