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Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on Oct. 18 in Beijing. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)
Politics

China's Xi aims to cement Communist Party's hold on business

New companies drawing greater scrutiny as leaders seek greater stability

SHUNSUKE TABETA, Nikkei staff writer | China

BEIJING -- China's ruling Communist Party has made strengthening President Xi Jinping's grip on society, particularly business, the centerpiece of its twice-a-decade congress, which opened Wednesday in Beijing.

The Communist Party of China will incorporate Xi's political thought into its constitution during the weeklong meeting. The party is also expected to increase its involvement in many aspects of Chinese life to ensure social stability and enhance its control over the economy and business.

During his address to the congress on Wednesday, Xi, who is also the party's head, stressed that it will work to strengthen state-owned enterprises, making them larger and more competitive.

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The Communist Party has created a distinctive form of socialism for China's new era, Xi said, adding that the socialism in this new era must be developed over the long term as a guide to action for the great revival of the Chinese people.

Xi laid out his political ideas and philosophy of leadership, which he has put into practice during his first five-year term of office. These will be included in the party's constitution.

As Xi delivered his address in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, an executive at a Chinese information technology company said the controls on speech that have been rolled out in China were unprecedented. Influential lawyers, authors and others in the public eye have stopped communicating online.

Business, which up until now had been given greater freedom to operate, will also come under stricter scrutiny by the Communist Party.

Xi has emphasized the importance of the party's guidance as the foundation of state-run enterprises. In his speech on Wednesday, Xi stressed that the party will push ahead with reforms of these enterprises, develop a mixed ownership system through such measures as welcoming private investment, and nurture them so that they become first-class companies with strong international competitiveness.

The party also plans to deepen its involvement in private companies, a reversal of its earlier, often hands-off policy. A growing number of private companies, including foreign-affiliated entities, have party organs operating within them.

With these entities in place, the party is particularly targeting rapidly growing internet companies.  Industry leaders such as Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba Group already have in-house party organs. Others, including the operator of the Zhihu question-and-answer website for smartphones and the provider of the Meituan Waimai delivery app services, set up internal party groups in August and October, respectively.

Party entities are also finding their way into newer companies active in the "sharing economy." Didi Chuxing, the biggest ride-hailing company in China, established one a year ago. The Ofo bicycle-sharing service set one up in July.

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