BEIJING — China’s Communist Party formally elevated President Xi Jinping to the same status as party legends Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping on Tuesday, writing his name into its constitution and setting the nation’s leader up for an extended stay in power.
The move will make Xi the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, with ambitions to tighten party control over society and make his country a superpower on the world stage, reports Washington Post.
The unanimous vote to enshrine “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era” in the constitution came on the final day of the week-long 19th Party Congress, a five-yearly gathering of the party elite in the imposing and cavernous Great Hall of the People on the western side of Beijing’s iconic Tiananmen Square.
The meeting effectively marks the start of Xi’s second five-year-term as party general secretary, but the chances are now higher that this will not be his last — although in the opaque world of Chinese party politics, nothing is certain.
And the constant drumbeat of propaganda about loyalty to his leadership makes it more difficult for anyone who dares challenge him.
“The introduction of Xi Thought makes the question of succession while Xi is alive a moot issue,” said Bill Bishop, pubisher of the Sinocism newsletter. “So long as Xi has not met Marx, he is is the man with an eponymous theory in the party constitution, so no one will have more authority than him,” — no matter what title Xi holds.
Xi Jinping Thought embodies two important principles, experts say: first that the party is in control of every aspect of life in China, from the economy to the Internet, from politics to culture and religion. The party must be more disciplined, and more responsive to people’s needs, but its leadership must not be questioned.
The second is that China is on a path to become a true global superpower — very much on its own terms.
“Under his reign, there is no more hope of convergence,” said Godemont, referring to the idea that China would become more open, more ruled by law and more democratic, as it became wealthier, that its interests and political system with ultimately converge with those of the West.
The idea of political reform in a Western sense is now firmly out of the window.
Xi’s message is one of a nationalist, assertive China, one that he says will not threaten the world, but will resolutely defend its interests.
“By the middle of this century or before, China aims to close the gap economically and militarily with the United States, and become the ultimate arbiter in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Lam.
If Mao’s era was one of revolution and nation-building, while Deng’s was one of reform and opening that set China on the path to becoming a global economic power, Xi’s era is, perhaps, one of control and nationalism.
Deng’s influence on the course of Chinese history was massive but his power was wielded less explicitly, often from a position behind the scenes. As a result, his “theory on socialism with Chinese characteristics” was not formally incorporated into the party constitution until after his death.
Former leader Jiang’s ideological contribution is recognized in the document as the “Theory of Three Represents,” as is Hu’s “Scientific Outlook on Development,” but neither man is mentioned by name.