Friday 21 September 2018

Xi cements his power as China lauds his vision

Xi Jinping at the congress in Beijing. Photo: Bloomberg.
Xi Jinping at the congress in Beijing. Photo: Bloomberg.

Christain Shepherd

Chinese officials yesterday heaped praise on President Xi Jinping's political ideology, unveiled a day earlier at a key Communist Party congress, a sign that it could be enshrined in the party's constitution and further cement his power.

Some ruling Communist Party officials were moved yesterday to song, dance and tears in adulation of Mr Xi, a day after he opened the twice-a-decade conclave pledging to build a prosperous "modern socialist country" for a "new era".

Three outgoing members of the elite seven-man politburo standing committee that Mr Xi heads lauded "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era", according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Such statements indicate that Mr Xi could cement his power with his new eponymous slogan being incorporated into the party's constitution. Whether the theory is included bearing his name will be a key measure of his status, analysts have said.

No other leader has had an eponymous ideology included in the document while in office since Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China.

Mr Xi is poised to begin a second five-year term next week.

Party officials hailed Mr Xi as a wise and great "lingxiu", or leader, a reverent honorific bestowed on only two others: Mao and his short-lived successor Hua Guofeng - another sign that Mr Xi has accumulated more power than his immediate predecessors and could revive a party chairmanship as a precursor to staying on in some capacity beyond the end of his second term in 2022.

"Xi Jinping...has obtained the heartfelt love and respect of the entire party, army and people, he deserves to be called wise leader," Beijing party secretary Cai Qi, a Mr Xi ally and one-time colleague, said at a meeting of the city delegation, according to the official 'Beijing Daily'.

Officials lavishing praise on the party's top leader at a congress is not unusual, but overt displays of emotion or personal adulation are rare.

One female delegate from the southern province of Jiangxi broke into a song to praise Mr Xi's treatment of ethnic minorities, while another from Guangdong province said that, listening to Mr Xi's speech, her eyes had brimmed with tears.

"I feel that the reason for my country's accomplishments is fundamentally the helmsmanship of Xi Jinping," said Jing Junhai, Beijing's deputy party chief, invoking a phase often used to describe Mao.

The 64-year-old Mr Xi has consolidated power swiftly since assuming the party leadership in 2012, locking up rivals for corruption, tightening controls on civil society, revamping the military and asserting China's rising might on the global stage.

Some party officials painted Mr Xi as a saviour.

"Because of the party central committee with comrade Xi Jinping as its core, in five years, the party has been saved, the army has been saved, the country has been saved," Liu Shiyu, head of China's securities regulator, said yesterday.

Others were more restrained. Hu Chunhua, party chief in Guangdong province and a potential contender for a spot on the new politburo standing committee to be revealed next week, simply referred to Mr Xi as general secretary and did not mention his theory during an open session yesterday, in contrast with more than a dozen other delegates who spoke. State media reported that he had praised Mr Xi's theory the day before.

The exact meaning of Mr Xi's new banner term is not yet clear, although it is not unusual for Communist Party leaders to announce lofty slogans and then fill in the details as they go.

An ideology named after Mr Xi to guide China and the party would further consolidate his power, said Ryan Manuel, a Chinese politics expert at the University of Hong Kong.

"This is a good umbrella for him to keep saying whatever he wants and the system having to respond and study it," he said.

Irish Independent

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