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.
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 gathering of the party elite held once every five years in the imposing and cavernous Great Hall of the People on the western side of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
There is no Little Red Book of pithy quotations as there was under Mao, but instead a mightier, drier tome of his speeches on “The Governance of China.” Nevertheless, Xi’s ideas will now become compulsory learning for Chinese students from primary schools through universities.
On Wednesday, more evidence of Xi’s power will emerge when he introduces the other members of the Communist Party’s top leadership, the Politburo Standing Committee, to the media. Experts say it is unlikely that a clear successor will emerge or be anointed, leaving Xi’s preeminent position free of an obvious challenge.
The Party Congress 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 – or at least that he will remain the most powerful person in China beyond 2022.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Simon Denyer