There is no way to stop a dictatorship once it has started running wild.

China learned this the hard way when Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, led the nation through two campaigns, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, which caused enormous casualties.

Since the 1980s, China has been attempting to build on the lessons it learned from these disasters.

To avoid making the same mistake again, China has adopted a collective leadership system designed to ensure that no one person will have overwhelming political power.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, however, is now trying to destroy this system. In a move to further accelerate his single-minded efforts to concentrate power in his hands, Xi has made the Communist Party seek to abolish constitutional limits on presidential terms. The proposal will be formally endorsed by the National People’s Congress during its annual session, to be convened in March.

The proposed revision to the Constitution will remove the provision stipulating the president and vice president of the country are prohibited from serving more than two consecutive terms totaling 10 years.

The move, which will pave the way for Xi to stay in power for many more years, is raising concerns that he will create a personal dictatorship.

China, a global power, will face a dangerous future if it is ruled by a strongman who rivals Mao in authority amid a lack of freedom in politics and the press.

This is a disturbing prospect not just for China but also for neighboring countries and the entire world.

In addition to the collective leadership system, Chinese leaders have also followed the tradition of picking their heirs early. But no one has emerged as Xi’s heir apparent yet.

Xi has already been given the exceptional title of “core” leader, which means being central to the party leadership. And his name and doctrines, referred to as “Xi Jinping Thought,” have been written into the party constitution.

Many of his political proteges have been awarded key central and local posts.

All these developments indicate that dissenting voices within his administration would be stifled. It seems that Xi is strengthening his political power primarily out of concerns that diversification of the party could cause a crisis due to internal divisions and corruption like the one that led to the downfall of former Politburo member Bo Xilai six years ago.

The Xi administration’s iron-fisted rule has oppressed the country’s civil society, silencing many scholars, lawyers and citizen activists. It is showing far less respect to human rights than the previous government.

Unfortunately, many Western countries have long been plagued by dysfunction of politics and other problems.

The United States has provided a prominent example of how a democratically elected leader can cause confusion.

This grim reality has led to a proliferation of views praising the Chinese system of governing in Chinese media.

Despite problems with the qualifications of some individual leaders, however, the values of freedom and democracy remain unshaken in the West.

China is under a one-party rule, in the first place. If its leader maintains a dictatorial rule for long, the risks of policy rigidities and corruption will grow without a doubt.

Embracing a personal dictatorship will not bring long-term peace and prosperity to China.

China’s leaders should pursue politics based on self-restraint in exercising their ruling power and an agenda designed to expand the citizens’ rights to speak and vote while seeking to gradually form a consensus.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 27