Donald Trump praises Xi Jinping becoming President for life

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump.
Xi Jinping and Donald Trump. Photo credit: Reuters

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 Mr Xi to serve indefinitely.

"He's now President for life, President for life. And he's great," Mr Trump said, according to audio of excerpts of Mr 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," Mr Trump said to cheers and applause from supporters.

It is not clear if Mr 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 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."

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.

In order to change the current prohibition, it would require initial support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress or support of two-thirds of state legislatures - and then would need to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

China's annual parliament gathering kicks off on Monday as Mr Xi presses ahead with efforts to ward off financial risks without undermining the economy. The Communist party announced on Feb 25 the end of the two-term limit for the president - and the parliament is expected to ratify the move.

During the remarks, Mr Trump praised Mr Xi as "a great gentleman" and added: "He's the most powerful [Chinese] president in 100 years."

Mr Trump said Mr Xi had treated him "tremendously well" during his visit in November.

Mr Trump has often praised Mr Xi, but in January Mr Trump told Reuters the United States 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.

Mr 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".