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China seen removing barriers to Xi third term

Communist Party looks to change retirement 'rule' as president shows ambition to stay leader for longer

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Souvenirs feature portraits of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong and China's President Xi Jinping at a shop near the Forbidden City in Beijing.   © Reuters

BEIJING -- The Chinese Communist Party will rethink its customary retirement age at its congress this fall, which could allow President Xi Jinping a third term and accelerate his efforts to consolidate power around himself.

The retirement age was first introduced at the 1997 party congress under then-President Jiang Zemin. Initially, any senior official aged 70 or above at the time of the twice-a-decade gathering had to step down. The cut-off was then lowered to 68 in 2002. A custom rather than a hard-and-fast rule, it has nevertheless been followed by former President Hu Jintao and many others.

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