BEIJING: China's propaganda machine kicked into overdrive on Tuesday to defend the Communist Party's move to lift term limits for President Xi Jinping as criticism persisted on social media in defiance of censorship.
The party has shocked many observers by proposing a constitutional amendment to end the two-term limit for president, giving Xi a clear path to rule the world's second largest economy for life.
Censors have scrambled to block critical comments on social media but users of the Twitter-like Weibo website continued to speak out on Tuesday, two days after the party's announcement.
"So pathetic, we have 1.3 billion people, no one can resist," wrote one user.
Another lamented the lack of political reform: "I once believed that I could see a president elected by one man, one vote in my lifetime".
Censors blocked searches for the phrases "I object", "proclaimed king", "tenure system" and "Winnie the Pooh" — the portly cartoon bear to which Xi has been compared.
Xi is expected to secure a second five-year term when the rubber-stamp National People's Congress opens its annual plenary session on Monday.
State-run media published new editorials praising the Central Committee's proposed amendment, which is expected to be approved during the legislative session and would allow Xi to stay in power beyond 2023.
The China Daily, an English-language newspaper, said the party's decision "has been necessitated by the need to perfect the Party and the State leadership system".
The daily said the party has always proposed amendments that "have injected new ideas and concepts about where the country will go and how it will achieve its goal of rejuvenation and ensure people live happier lives".
The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid, was even more profuse in its praise of the amendment in an editorial titled "Constitution change responds to new era".
Since Xi took power as party chief in 2012, it wrote, "the new ruling team has not just been muddling along under the leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping. Instead, it quickly started to deepen reforms in a comprehensive and magnificent way".
The newspaper took a shot at the political system of the United States and Europe.
"It has shaped and affected quite a few Chinese people's mind-sets. But some key parts of the Western value system are collapsing. Democracy, which has been explored and practiced by Western societies for hundreds of years, is ulcerating," it said.
"China cannot stop and take a break ... Our country must not be disturbed by the outside world or lose our confidence as the West grows increasingly vigilant toward China."