Trump praises Xi Jinping’s move to end term limits
Behind closed doors, President Donald Trump congratulated and praised China’s President, Xi Jinping, for moving to end term limits. President Xi Jinping changed the country’s constitution to effectively allow him to be president for life. The closed-door remarks came from his Mar-a-Lago golf club on Saturday and were first aired by CNN.
The remarks were later confirmed by a Republican lobbyist who also attended the luncheon. “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump said. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday,” he added.
While these remarks were likely made in jest (they were just a part of a lengthy conversation peppered with jokes) and drew laughter from those in the room, Trump finding humor in the idea of staying in power for life caused critics to state their consternation. Congress member Ted Lieu (D-CA) tweeted at President Trump, “One difference between you and China’s Xi is that you took an oath to the Constitution of the United States. You should read it.”
People were especially critical considering Trump has a history of admiring dictators. He has repeatedly praised Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, rating him an “A” in leadership and admired his approval numbers. He has also celebrated his “great friendship” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His friendliness with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is also particularly noteworthy. Trump praised Duterte’s “unbelievable job on the drug problem,” ignoring how the president has killed thousands in his drug war.
Trump’s comments on China’s president were also taken seriously by Chinese analysts, according to the New York Times. Trump called Xi Jinping “a great gentleman” and “the most powerful president in 100 years.” Chinese leaders then were excited considering the United States still represents the reference point for China, according to a professor of international relations at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. The comments may have also been especially welcome considering Xi’s step towards dictatorship remains a sensitive issue inside China.
It is expected that Trump’s comments will give Xi a boost and supporters of Xi are likely to see Trump’s comments as validation.
When asked about the White House’s reaction to the term limit issue in China, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated it’s “a decision for China to make about what’s best for their country.”