Press release

China: Xi Jinping’s Third Term Will Mean Dwindling Freedom for 1.4 Billion People

After a decade under Xi’s leadership, the people of China are less free and more isolated.

In advance of the October 16 opening of the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), at which incumbent party leader Xi Jinping is expected to secure a historic third five-year term, Freedom House president Michael J. Abramowitz issued the following statement:

“By breaking with its decades-old practice of term limits to grant a third term to Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party will further entrench and elevate its most authoritarian leader since Mao Zedong. This congress amounts to a coronation of Xi. In extending his leadership, the CCP will also be doubling down on his increasingly repressive approach, which aims to control more and more aspects of daily life and governance in China, and to provide a global model for other authoritarians seeking to stifle freedom and quash dissent. Xi’s draconian policies are already isolating and oppressing the citizens of the most populous country in the world.

“During Xi’s tenure, the CCP has systematically jailed and silenced critics, journalists, and independent media; tightened restrictions on social media and access to internet outside China; cracked down on rights-focused NGOs; cited COVID-19 to justify extreme controls on personal autonomy; clamped down on religious practice; and committed heinous atrocities against the Uyghur population and other Muslim minorities, including forced sterilizations, mass arbitrary detentions, and enforced disappearances. If past is prologue, a third term for Xi will result in more human rights abuses within China and more aggressive suppression of free speech globally, even as his domestic and foreign policies backfire and public outrage intensifies.

“Another five years of Xi’s leadership is bad news for the cause of democracy and freedom, and worse news for the Chinese people, who like all people have a right to choose a government that represents them, to access independent sources of news and information, and to freely express their views and practice their religion.”


Opening on October 16, the CCP’s 20th Congress is expected to result in the appointment of Xi Jinping to a historic third five-year term as the party’s general secretary, the most powerful position in the country. Xi also holds the posts of chairman of the Central Military Commission and state president; he is expected to win a third term as president at the annual legislative session in March 2023. The party congress is the CCP’s most important meeting and occurs every five years. Its deliberations are shrouded in secrecy, but in addition to appointing or reappointing the leadership, it signals the party’s policy direction for the next five years. 

This is the first party congress since Xi orchestrated a change in China’s constitution in 2018 to abolish presidential term limits, which paved the way for Xi to potentially govern for life. The term limits had been introduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to prevent a single individual from amassing autocratic power like Mao Zedong. At the 19th Party Congress in 2017, Xi notably did not appoint a presumed successor.

Xi has been general secretary of the CCP since November 2012 and became president of China in March 2013. Since coming to power, he has led a national crackdown on human rights advocates, ethnic and religious minority groups, and his perceived political opponents within the CCP itself. Over the past decade, China’s score in Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual report on political rights and civil liberties, has dropped from 17 to 9 on a 100-point scale.

China was rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2022 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2021. The Chinese regime has also been described as one of the world’s worst perpetrators of transnational repression.

Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. It informs the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.