Chinese media criticise Western system following constitution change

Chinese media criticise Western system following constitution change

14/03/18

Luke Foddy, Communications Manager

Media outlets in China have railed against Western attitudes in the wake of global reaction to its constitutional changes.

On Sunday, China’s parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of removing fixed presidential terms, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to remain in post indefinitely.

The global interest in the story prompted several Chinese media outlets to react in unusually colourful terms.

The Global Times, for example, ran an editorial justifying the removal of term limits in light of, ‘the harsh reality that the Western political system doesn’t apply to developing countries and produces dreadful results.’

‘We are increasingly confident that the key to China’s path lies in upholding strong Party leadership and firmly following the leadership of the Party Central Committee,’ it added, in a phrase bearing striking resemblance to the official statement published by state-media outlet Xinhua following the vote.

The English-language China Daily was even more forthright, describing Western commentators as ‘naysayers’ who ‘through specious speculation… claim to know better.’

‘They revel in their ignorance of China’s reality and hold fast to their mean, even malicious predisposition toward China’s political system out of their irrational, subjective and unprofessional ideological bias,’ the editorial states.

In what could be argued is an attempt to justify the removal of presidential term limits, it added that the changes ‘are in accordance with the times, the demands of the country’s development and the aspirations of both the Party and the people.’

It added that critics ‘seek to disparage and denigrate China, and in particular its political system and ruling Party.’

Such responses could be interpreted as an overreaction, given that President Xi is thought to be well liked in China – Reuters reports that there was support for him on the streets of Beijing following the vote.

However, it is possible that the commentary is aimed at making a broader point to the global community; that China is willing to challenge the liberal democratic model with its own system as it gains influence on the world stage. It has already claimed that ‘its own system is more efficient and capable than Western democracy’, according to The Week. The common editorial theme of criticising the Western political system that we are now seeing seems to point to such a shift in Beijing’s messaging.

Some commentators have long argued that China’s prospering in the Western-dominated global trade system does not necessarily foretell a shift to Western systems of government, as explored in a recent article in The Economist.

Such a view may have gained credence this week.