US President Donald Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping after the ruling Communist party announced it was eliminating the two-term limit for the presidency, paving the way for Xi to serve indefinitely, according to audio aired by CNN on Saturday.
“He’s now president for life, president for life. And he’s great,” Trump said, according to an audio of excerpts of Trump’s remarks at a closed-door fundraiser in Florida aired by CNN. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday,” Trump said to cheers and applause from supporters.
Trump also praised Xi as “a great gentleman” and added: “He’s the most powerful (Chinese) president in a 100 years.”
It is not clear if Trump, 71, was making the comment about extending presidential service in jest. The White House did not respond to a request for comment late Saturday.
US presidents, by tradition, served a maximum of two, four-year terms, until President Franklin Roosevelt was elected a record four times, starting in 1932. An amendment to the US Constitution, approved in 1951, limits presidents to two terms in office.
Changing the current prohibition would require the initial support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress or the support of two-thirds of state legislatures – and then would need to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.
Trump has often praised Xi, but, in January, Trump told Reuters the US was considering a big “fine” as part of a probe into China‘s alleged theft of intellectual property. He has been critical of China’s trade policies.
Trump told The New York Times in December that, because of North Korea, he had “been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war”.
China’s annual parliament gathering kicks off on Monday, as Xi presses ahead with efforts to ward off financial risks without undermining the economy. The Communist party announced, on February 25, the end of the two-term limit for the president – and the parliament is expected to ratify the move.
US Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat, said on Twitter that “whether this was a joke or not, talking about being president for life like Xi Jinping is the most unAmerican sentiment expressed by an American president. George Washington would roll over in his grave.”
Imagine if Obama praised China's President for claiming all the power and essentially becoming a dictator for life and saying it's a good thing. How many patriotic Republicans would laugh and say, "Oh, that kidder, that Obama."
— Wajahat "Wears a Mask Because of a Pandemic" Ali (@WajahatAli) March 4, 2018