With ideology enshrined in CPC Constitution, Xi Jinping in same league as Mao

Updated on Oct 25, 2017 08:37 AM IST
China’s Communist Party endorsed a second five-year term for President Xi Jinping and amended its Constitution to add his name and ideology, elevating him at par with party founder Mao Zedong.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s was added to the Communist Party's constitution at a defining Congress, elevating him alongside Chairman Mao to the pantheon of the country's founding giants.(AFP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s was added to the Communist Party's constitution at a defining Congress, elevating him alongside Chairman Mao to the pantheon of the country's founding giants.(AFP)
Hindustan Times, Beijing | BySutirtho Patranobis

The Communist Party of China on Tuesday enshrined President Xi Jinping’s political doctrine and his name in its Constitution, elevating him to the level of icons Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping and making him one of the most powerful leaders in the past three decades.

The amendment also included Xi’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative in the Constitution and said the party will pursue the connectivity and trade project.

The party further clarified that the chairperson - currently Xi - of the Central Military Commission (CMC), which controls the Chinese armed forces, assumes overall “responsibility” of the Commission.

The amendment to the party’s charter, titled “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, was adopted at the conclusion of the 19th national congress of the party at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The congress, attended by about 2,300 delegates, endorsed a second five-year term for 64-year-old Xi and appointed a new set of leaders backed by him.

Until now only “Mao Zedong Thought” and “Deng Xiaoping Theory” had been included in the charter by their names. While Mao was the founder of modern China, it was under Deng that the country made rapid economic progress on its way to becoming the world’s second largest economy.

Xi’s immediate predecessors, presidents Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, had their doctrines adopted into the charter but without their names being attached.

Other than the mention of “Xi Jinping Thought”, his name was included in at least two other parts of the amended constitution - “implement Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the military” and “firmly uphold the authority and centralised, unified leadership of the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the Core”.

Read more: Xi Jinping endorsed for second term as president by China’s Communist Party

“Xi Jinping Thought” has 14 principles, state media reported last week, quoting top Chinese leaders as saying that the president’s thoughts were the highlights of the national congress. The principles include “harmonious living between man and nature”, “absolute authority of the CPC over the army” and a call for “complete and deep reform”.

A Communist Party resolution said the new thought was “an important component of the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and a guide to action for the entire Party and all the Chinese people to strive for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

In a show of unity, delegates responded with shouts of “none” in Chinese when asked at the concluding session whether they had any objection to the amendment to the Constitution – it’s safe to assume the changes were a foregone conclusion.

In Chinese politics, where symbolism matters a lot, the inclusion of Xi’s name in the party constitution gives him a stamp of authority and control not seen since Deng Xiaoping was at the helm from the late 1970s.

“He is not only China’s leader but also hopes to be the world’s leader. China may seek hegemony geopolitically,” Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political commentator and historian, told Hindustan Times in an email.

“Xi’s new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics has been written into the CPC charter, indicating that Xi as China’s general secretary is a great combination of party leader and national mentor,” said Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based expert on Chinese affairs.

“This shows that he is not only the party leader but also the leader of thought,” Hu added.

Jonathan Sullivan, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, said in an email: “China under Xi has transformed from a country preoccupied by its internal concerns to one that has global interests, a global vision and, for the first time, the willingness to provide public goods and underwrite risk at a global scale.”

There are China experts who fear Xi will continue to rule China with an iron hand.

“One can predict that after the 19th party congress, Xi will continue his rule-by-suppression in the country, comprehensively controlling the society, and cracking down on any social forces that dare challenge the CPC. The human rights situation in China will continue to worsen,” Gao Wenqian, senior policy advisor at the New York-based Human Rights in China, told Hindustan Times on email.

“If the economy continues to slide, social conflicts will intensify, and official suppression will redouble,” said Gao, the author of official biographies of Mao Zedong and former premier Zhou Enlai.

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