China’s ruling Communist Party is all set to amend its constitution at the next month’s key once-in-a-five-year Congress to grant more powers to President Xi Jinping besides endorsing a record third term for him to lead the country for another five years or beyond. Xi’s position is to be further elevated after the ruling Communist Party announced this week that it would amend its constitution at the upcoming national party Congress, according to analysts.
The meeting of the 25-member Politburo, the principal policy making committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which met last Friday, said: “it was stressed at the meeting that the 20th CPC National Congress is a convention of great significance to be held at a crucial moment”. “Under the firm leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, efforts should be made to unite the whole Party and all the Chinese people and lead them in building on past achievements,” the meeting said, dropping clear hints that Xi will continue to lead the party.
His continuation is regarded as a major policy change in the leadership structure as all Xi’s predecessors – except founder Mao – retired after two-five-year terms. Xi, 69, who has been conferred the “core leader” status a title enjoyed by Mao is completing his second five-year term this year. “The Party Constitution is the general charter of the CPC. Making amendments to the Party Constitution by the CPC at its 20th National Congress in line with new circumstances and missions will help the whole Party better study, abide by, implement and safeguard the dignity of this fundamental document,” an official press release issued after the politburo meeting said.
The change of constitution of the CPC set off speculation that Xi, who is the General Secretary of the party and head of the military besides the Presidency, will be bestowed with more power including the possible elevation conferring the title of the Chairman of the party, a position so far held only by Mao in the century-old party.
Except for Xi, the Congress will usher in scores of new officials at the centre including a new Premier as the incumbent Li Keqiang, the number two leader of the CPC, said he will retire. 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 Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. The decision to amend the constitution of the party aims to better enshrine Xi’s ruling philosophy into the charter and will strengthen his hand, analysts said.
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 leader of the party – after Mao and his successor Deng Xiaoping – 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, paving the way for Xi to continue in power for life. The revision was the strongest hint that Xi may break the decades-old convention and stay in power for more than two terms, the Post report said. 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, told the Post 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. 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. CPC 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.