China looking forward to its new constitution

Move aims to better enshrine President Xi’s ruling philosophy into the charter and will strengthen his hand, analysts believe

President Xi Jinping is already considered the most powerful political leader in China since Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Photo: AFP

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s position is to be further elevated after the ruling Communist Party announced it would amend its constitution at the upcoming national party congress, according to state news agency Xinhua.

This comes five years after the last revision at the previous party congress added Xi’s name to a body of guiding thoughts.

No details were mentioned in the Xinhua report yesterday. It only said that the 25-strong Politburo, the party’s top decision-making body, met and discussed key issues on Friday. They agreed to amend the party charter at the 20th national party congress in October.

The congress is also expected to to formally confirm Xi for an unprecedented third term as the paramount leader, and introduce sweeping changes at the top.

The revision was necessary for the party to unify thought, enforce discipline and uphold policy directions, the report said.

“We must amend the constitution in accordance with the new conditions we face and the missions the party needs to carry out … We must incorporate the latest theoretical and strategic thinking into the party constitution,” it said.

Besides the amendment, the meeting also reviewed several work reports that would be tabled at the party congress, covering areas such as anti-extravagance drives and promoting frugality among party members, according to the report.

Analysts believe the move aims to better enshrine Xi’s ruling philosophy into the party charter that governs 95 million members and this would further strengthen Xi’s leadership position. The 69-year-old is already considered the most powerful political leader in China since Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

At the last party congress in 2017, the party charter was amended to include the “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.

The addition made Xi the third party leader- after Mao and Deng- to have a body of thoughts bearing his name written in the party canon.

A few months later, at the annual national parliamentary sessions, China revised its national constitution, removing the 10-year term limit for the presidency.

The revision was the strongest hint that Xi may break the decades-old convention and stay in power for more than two terms.

Experts believe this latest revision of the party charter in October would put Xi’s status beyond challenge.

Alfred Wu, associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, suggested that Xi may shorten the tongue-twisting political thought to just “Xi Jinping Thoughts”, which will put him on a par with Mao in the party ideology.

“The current version is 16 characters long in Chinese, and difficult for most people to remember. If he manages to shorten it to ‘Xi Jinping Thoughts’ – with just five characters – it will not only travel better but will also make him like an equal to Mao,” Wu said.

“Even Deng’s doctrine is called ‘Deng Xiaoping Theory”, which is, [to put it] subtly, not as profound and grand as a ‘Thought’ in the party lingo,” he added.

Xie Maosong, a senior fellow of the Taihe Institute and a senior researcher at the National Institute of Strategic Studies at Tsinghua University, said besides a better-distilled version of Xi’s political thoughts, the party’s constitutional amendment would also need to include more elaboration of his major governance priorities, especially those raised and implemented in past five years.

“It might include some key concepts from the 19th party congress, like the ‘Two Establishes’, which has cemented his leadership position in the party,” Xie said.

The “Two Establishes” was first mentioned in a major historical resolution passed in the 19th party congress five years ago, which basically said Xi should be established as the unquestionable “core” leader of the party and the party should establish his doctrine as its future guiding principles.

“Xi’s thoughts on economic development, rule of law, diplomacy and security are all some of the possible ideas to be added to the constitution,” Xie said.

China’s ruling party has amended its constitution at each party congress since being founded in 1921, reflecting the changes in its direction.

Since the 1990s, changes to the party constitution mostly focused on adding the new leadership’s political philosophies to an ever-increasing list of party’s charting political doctrines, underscoring their historical status.

The 20th party congress is a twice-a-decade event for the ruling party. It will produce new top leadership as many incumbents are set for retirement. It is also expected to endorse a third five-year term for Xi as the party’s general secretary.






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