After Mao, Xi is China’s most powerful leader
By Gaurav Sharma
Beijing: The powerful Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday entered the league of China’s greats Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping as the Communist Party incorporated his political thought into its constitution.
On the last day of the week-long 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), nearly 2,300 delegates at the Soviet-style Great Hall approved to include Xi’s doctrine into the constitution which so far carried the philosophies of only Mao and Deng.
The move will take Xi’s stature to another level and give more ammo to his growing power in China’s closed politics.
With the inclusion of “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, Xi has surpassed veterans like Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.
“The Congress unanimously agrees on Xi Jinping’s ‘Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ in addition to Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong, Deng Theory,” the amendment to the constitution read.
“The Congress urges all Party members to use the Thought to achieve unity in thinking and action, be more purposeful and determined in studying and applying it.”
Xi has amassed power like no other leader after Mao and Deng in China.
Last year, Xi was accorded the title of “core” leader, a distinction given only to Mao, Deng, and Jiang.
This honorific puts Xi at the top of China’s inner ruling circle.
Xi is one of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s most powerful body.
Five of the super seven is to retire due to the unofficial retiring age of 68. Xi, 64 and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, 62, will stay on.
It is to be seen who all are in, but it is speculated most of them will be Xi loyalists.
The composition of the Standing Committee will matter a lot to Xi’s growing clout.
It is not known if Xi will announce his successor when he retires as the party General Secretary in 2022 when he turns 69.
The retirement age of top political bodies of the CPC is 68.
“Domestically, it signifies that Xi has no serious rivals and the system has a consensus behind him which is unusual even in a highly authoritarian state like China,” old-time China-watcher David Kelly told IANS.
However, Kelly says Xi cannot be compared to Mao.
“I was a student here in the 1970s when Mao was still alive. Xi simply does not have the passionate belief.
“Mao was almost a religious figure. Young people of that time, who had very limited exposure to the outside world, thought of him as almost supernatural.”
Steve Tsang, Director SOAS China Institute, said Xi was yet to be tested.
“Xi has not yet faced great challenges in the way Mao did, like the one over the Korean War, or Deng did in the form of Tiananmen protests of 1989,” Tsang told IANS.
“Xi’s game is to make sure that he will not be so tested.”
In a brief address to the party delegates, Xi said: “Our party shows strong, firm and vibrant leadership.”
“Our socialist system demonstrates great strength and vitality. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation embrace brilliant prospects.”
Also on Tuesday, the CPC unveiled a new leadership, electing the 19th Central Committee to lead the party for the next five years.
The 19th Central Committee will, in turn, elect the Political Bureau, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau and the General Secretary at its first plenary session on Wednesday, reports Xinhua news agency.
According to the Party Constitution, the highest leading body of the CPC is the National Congress and the Central Committee it elects, and all constituent organizations and members of the Party are subordinate to the National Congress and the Central Committee.
The number of delegates to the National Congress and the procedure governing their election shall be determined by the Central Committee.