China has elevated the stature of President Xi Jinping and cemented his grip on power by including his name and political ideology in the Communist Party constitution.
At the end of a pivotal twice-a-decade meeting, party delegates voted unanimously Tuesday to make “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” a guiding principle for the party.
The move puts Xi on par with Chairman Mao Zedong who founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who oversaw China’s opening up to the world. China’s previous two presidents, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, haven’t had their names enshrined in the constitution in this way.
“Xi Jinping now has an institutional guarantee of support. He can be emperor for life — staying in power as long as his health allows,” said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for China Studies.
Xi looks set to emerge from the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China stronger than ever, both domestically and on the international stage.
At home, Xi has taken down senior leaders in his anti-corruption drive, launched an unprecedented crackdown on free speech, and radically overhauled the two-million strong People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest fighting force.
Globally, the world will now likely see China continue to step into a global leadership vacuum as the US turns inward under President Donald Trump.
As Xi presided over the closing session in the Great Hall of the People, more than 2,200 delegates raised their hands in unison to approve the party charter amendments, with staffers announcing “meiyou” (“none”) to indicate the lack of dissenting or abstaining votes.
Xi repeatedly referred to “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” during a three-and-a-half-hour opening speech to the National Party Congress last week. And the resolution passed Tuesday echoed many of the same themes.
The address detailed his sweeping vision for the country, charting its future in a world where China’s reach is now extending — and being felt — further than ever before.
Xi declared that China should “take center stage in the world,” and that its brand of socialism offers “a new choice for other countries.” He added that, “no one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests.”
On Wednesday, Xi is expected to be formally granted a second five-year term as the party’s general secretary and reveal the new members of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC), the top decision-making body in the one-party system.