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China's Xi is set to have himself written into history

Communist Party approves adding the president's namesake philosophy to its constitution

Xi Jinping speaks during the opening session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct.18.(Photo by Akira Kodaka)

BEIJING The Chinese Communist Party is set to amend its constitution to include the political thought and philosophy of President Xi Jinping in a move that further strengthens his hold on power.

A proposal to make the changes was endorsed at the seventh plenary meeting of the CCP's 18th Central Committee, which ended on Oct. 14, paving the way for formal approval at the party's national congress, which kicked off on Oct. 18.

Xi is also set to put forward a new national vision at the opening of the congress, according to party sources, in an apparent bid to cement his status alongside former leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Plenary sessions serve as a forum for some 200 committee members and other leaders to discuss items to present to the national congress, which is convened twice a decade.

The latest session was held behind closed doors at a Beijing hotel under the direct management of the military.

The meeting also saw the committee approve the decision to strip Sun Zhengcai, the former party chief of Chongqing, and 11 other leaders of their party membership.

Liu Yunshan, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, explained the proposal for amending the party constitution to the Central Committee, which agreed to carry out a series of plans mentioned by Xi in his speeches on new ideas, thoughts and strategies from his book, "The Governance of China."

WHAT'S IN A NAME? At the core of Xi's philosophy are the "four comprehensives," or directives: to build a moderately prosperous society by 2020, achieve reforms, ensure rule of law and enforce strict party discipline -- a broad idea that includes combating corruption and poverty. "Xi Jinping Thought," as it has become known, also prioritizes a "five-in-one" approach of developing politics, culture, society and environmental protection alongside the economy.

The general provision section of the party constitution contains Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory. The ideas of Xi's more recent predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao are also included, but their names are not used in the titles of their contributions. Adding Xi's philosophy to the constitution with his name puts him on a par with the founder of the People's Republic and the man who set it on the path to economic growth.

In a communique released after the end of the plenary session, the Central Committee stressed that the party would lose touch with the population -- and, moreover, its ability to lead -- without the committee's own authority and leadership.

Visitors pose for a photo in front of a picture of the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in Shenzhen in 2014.   © Reuters

The entire party must fall into line with the Central Committee with Xi as its core, the committee continued, revealing its intention to see power further concentrated in Xi's hands.

The committee had nothing but praise for the president's first five-year term. Referring to stable economic growth, an anti-poverty campaign and military reforms believed to be the largest since the country's foundation, the committee said the party leadership had managed to solve numerous problems that had plagued China for many years, as well as push ahead with historic reforms of both the state and the party.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which has led the anti-corruption campaign many see as Xi's biggest achievement, was singled out for praise. According to the committee, the agency has purified the political atmosphere in the party and created an overwhelming force for battling graft.

During the weeklong national congress, new Central Committee members will be chosen and amendments to party rules adopted. Shortly after the congress wraps up, the new Central Committee will gather to select the Politburo Standing Committee -- China's top decision-making body, which currently consists of seven members.

Xi also unveiled a new national vision that extends to the middle of the century. His aim is to mark the end of the era of Deng Xiaoping -- who laid the foundations for economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s -- and the start of a new one in which he guides the country on its rise to great-power status.

Soon after becoming party chief in the autumn of 2012, Xi set out the "Chinese Dream." He talked of ending the nation's history of humiliation, dating from its defeat in the Opium War in the 1840s, and of China reclaiming its place among the world's top powers. His new vision detailed what that dream will look like in reality.

When Deng opened up the country in 1978, the economy was in ruins after a decade of upheaval under Mao's Cultural Revolution. Saddened by the poverty in the country, Deng made economic growth his top priority and sought to build a "moderately prosperous society."

Forty years on, the prosperity Beijing and Shanghai goes well beyond "moderate," with many living in previously unimaginable luxury.

Xi understands that calling for an end to poverty through economic growth no longer resonates. By presenting a national vision that also talks of culture and the environment, he may be laying the groundwork to stay in power beyond the customary 10-year period.

Whatever happens during the national congress, one thing is certain -- the current leader is determined to etch his name into the country's history alongside Mao and Deng.

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