China’s Communist Party is set to mention President Xi Jinping as a mentor in the party constitution, an honour reserved so far for Communist stalwarts Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
Two past presidents, Jiang Zeming and Hu Jintao, who jointly ruled for two decades, have not been mentioned by name in the party constitution.
The party is holding its five-yearly congress, which will elect the new generation of leaders, from October 18. Xi is widely expected to be confirmed as party general secretary and the country’s president for a second five-year term.
A communique issued after the seventh plenary session of the party’s 18th central committee, which met for four days till October 14, mentioned the philosophies propounded by past presidents, such as Jiang’s concept of “Three represents” and Hu’s idea of adopting a “scientific outlook” towards development. But they have not been mentioned by name, as in the cases of Mao and Deng. The rare honour has now gone to Xi.
The latest move feeds speculation that Xi might even be declared the party’s “chairman” for life, which has been Mao’s special position. Analysts are divided on whether this will happen during the next party congress, scheduled to begin on October 18, or at a much later date. At the same time, it is now clear that Xi has largely suppressed small pockets of resistance within the party and emerged much stronger.
“Over the past five years, the CPC central committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core raised a series of new ideas, thoughts and strategies, formulated a string of important guidelines and policies and rolled out many significant measures,” the official Xinhua news agency said.
Though Xi’s re-election as party general secretary is generally expected, political observers are closely watching if Xi would manage to pack the seven-member politburo standing committee, the most powerful club, with his proteges and change the premier, Li Keqiang..
The move comes days before the first Asian tour by US President Donald Trump, who will also spend three days in China discussing hotspot issues like the South China Sea and trade differences. Any sign of challenges from foreign countries — like Trump’s acidic remarks against China and the recent border standoff with India — results in the Communist cadre rallying more strongly around the party general secretary, analysts said.
“Ideological and cultural construction have made important progress,” the communique said, signalling the wide approval for Xi’s drive to recast some of the ideological beliefs within the party. Critics see it as a move to bring all aspects of life, including the Internet and military, under the stern control of the party’s top leadership.
Praising Xi’s first term, the central party also said, “The building of a strong army has made new headway” and the country has made “major achievements in economic development and major breakthroughs in comprehensively deepening reform”.
In reality, Xi’s first term has been marked by China raising its global image with international investments and massive changes within the Communist Party and government at home. This includes revamping of military units, which have traditionally played a key role in the Communist Party.
Recent years have also seen an intensification of the anti-corruption crackdown sending hundreds of politicians, high officials and retired military officers to jail.