By Jessica Weiss
In a move seen as unprecedented since the time of Mao Zedong, founder of modern Communist China, Chinese president Xi Jinping has incorporated “Xi Jinping Thought” into the Chinese constitution at the Communist Party congress.
At the largest and most important annual political gathering in the country with an attendance of over 2,000 delegates, the enshrining of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” into the constitution marks the start of a new chapter in modern China, as Xi is the first living president of the People’s Republic of China since Mao Zedong to have his ideology described as “thought,” giving it top distinction in the party’s ideological hierarchy.
The descriptive term “new era” also suggests that the Communist Party sees Xi’s rule as monumental turning point, following the first era of Mao uniting China after its civil war and the second being the opening of the economy under Deng Xiaoping.
This also suggests that Xi will be consolidating power at an increasing rate, as having his name in the constitution prevents challenging Communist Party rule. Given that the party is the country, to go against Xi would essentially be symbolically going against China.
This is why the Communist Party congress is commonly seen as a rubber-stamp meeting, simply codifying and approving goals and policies of those at the top of the party. This is exhibited by Xi asking delegates at the end of the announcement if they had any objections, to which the response was a loud cry of “meiyou,” or “none.”
The move signals that Xi possibly will seek to remain in power beyond his second five-year term which ends in 2022, and the presenting of new members of the politburo, the 25 member committee at the top of the Communist Party, further entrenched that belief. The most elite ruling group in China, the politburo standing committee, introduced 5 new members who were all too old to take over Xi’s role at the end of his second term in 2022.
Amidst a time where corruption-busting and crackdowns on dissent is becoming more popular, this move seems to be a natural extension of Xi Jinping’s agenda. The principles under Xi Jinping Thought, or what some are now calling “Xiism,” highlight the vast changes Xi is trying to make.
With 14 main principles on the role of the party in everyday life of Chinese citizens, it calls for “complete and deep reform” and promises “harmonious living between man and nature.” The focus on China’s economy and moving past export-based manufacturing in the past few years is exhibited in these principles, which many believe call for energy independence in China and increasing environmental consciousness.
Geopolitical and military goals are also highlighted, as “absolute authority of the party over the people’s army” is emphasized, while also bringing up the importance of “one country two systems” clearly referencing Hong Kong and Taiwan and their recent efforts to exert more independence from the party’s rule.
Consolidation of power under Xi coupled with clear goals for China moving forward leaves interesting implications for the future of the party and country, as well as its leader who now has elevated his status to a figure who is seen to be one with the history of modern China.