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'President for life'? Donald Trump's remarks about Xi Jinping find fans in China, East Asia News & Top Stories

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BEIJING (NYTIMES) – The comment was made behind closed doors, and appeared to be in jest: President Donald Trump told donors on Saturday (March 3) that China’s president, Xi Jinping, was now “president for life,” and added: “I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll want to give that a
BEIJING (NYTIMES) – The comment was made behind closed doors, and appeared to be in jest: President Donald Trump told donors on Saturday (March 3) that China’s president, Xi Jinping, was now “president for life,” and added: “I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll want to give that a shot someday.”
The remarks, confirmed by a leading Republican lobbyist who attended the luncheon at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, were first aired by CNN, which obtained an audio recording of his comments.
The statement, which drew laughter from those in attendance and was said by a smiling president, according to the lobbyist, was given on a day when Trump was out for laughs.
On Saturday evening, at the annual Gridiron dinner in Washington, Trump jokingly said of possible talks with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un: “As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem, not mine.”
Nonetheless, the remarks appeared to be the first comments made by Trump about China’s decision to scuttle the two terms for its presidency – part of a remarkable consolidation of power around Xi – and Chinese analysts took it seriously, even if it was done tongue-in-cheek.
That Trump left the impression of a positive endorsement from Trump was “unexpected” and “matters for China,” said Zhang Baohui, a professor of international relations at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.
“Chinese leaders care very little whether Trump is seen negatively outside China,” he said. “The US still represents the reference point for China.”
The Trump comments would be especially welcome because Xi’s step toward dictatorship was a sensitive issue inside China, and one about which public discussion has been barred.
Trump, an admirer of strongman leadership, has prided himself on his good personal relationship with Xi, even as Washington differs with Beijing on major issues from trade to North Korea. Xi accorded Trump a lavish state visit to Beijing last November that the president has enthused about ever since.
Leaders of democracies, including US allies in Europe and Asia, have abstained from criticising Xi, concerned, in part, by retaliatory economic reprisals. Authoritarian governments from Russia to Turkey have remained quiet, offering no explicit support but apparently confident of the growing acceptance of one-man rule, analysts said.
China’s state-run media has given minimal coverage to the Communist Party leadership’s decision to change the constitution.

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