CPC congress: Changes to party charter further cement President Xi’s power

Mr Xi Jinping is the only leader, apart from Mao, that has had his political doctrine included in the charter while still in office. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping has further consolidated his position in the ruling party, after key changes were made to the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) charter.

Some 2,300 party members on Saturday voted unanimously to pass changes to the party’s top guiding document at the end of a week-long party congress, held once every five years in Beijing.

The changes include enshrining “new developments” to Mr Xi’s political ideology, also known as Xi Jinping Thought On Socialism With Chinese Characteristics For A New Era.

The full text of the amendments has not yet been released, so it is not immediately clear what the changes are.

But according to an announcer explaining the changes, they appear to include the incorporation of the term “two establishments” (liangge queli), which refers to establishing Mr Xi’s “core status” in the party, and his ideas as the party’s guiding principles.

A second slogan “two safeguards” (liangge weihu), which refers to safeguarding the core status of Mr Xi within the party and the party’s centralised authority, also appeared to be included.

The announcer said the changes were necessary in order for the party to “resolve the acute problems and challenges undermining its long-term governance, the security and stability of the country, and the well-being of the people”.

In another key change, the announcer said delegates had agreed to include the phrase “resolutely oppose and deter separatists seeking ‘Taiwan independence’”, into the party charter.

Analysts say it is a further sign that Mr Xi is determined to make reunification with Taiwan, which the mainland sees as a renegade province, part of his legacy.

In his speech to close the congress, Mr Xi said that the amendments “set out clear requirements for upholding and strengthening the party’s overall leadership”.

Since its founding in 1921, the CPC has amended its charter at each party congress to reflect the changing political doctrines that guide the party.

In the last congress in 2017, the charter was amended to include Mr Xi’s political ideology.

He is the second leader, after Chairman Mao Zedong, to have his political doctrine included in the charter while still in office.

The latest changes show Mr Xi is firmly at the helm of the party.

He is expected to receive a norm-breaking third term when the party elite meet on Sunday to elect the party’s new leadership.

Experts also say the changes indicate that Mr Xi has further bolstered his already considerable authority within the party and consolidated his clout.

It would make opposition against Mr Xi more difficult, say analysts, as any divergent views could be seen as an attack on the party.

But centralising so much authority in one man is dangerous, said political analyst Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“The risk is that if Xi makes a dubious or a wrong decision, there would be nobody powerful enough to correct him. For example, if he wants to invade Taiwan, or to do something hawkish and against the Western alliance led by the United States, nobody can stop him,” added Prof Lam.

Associate Professor Alfred Wu from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said it was another indication of “one-man rule” within the party, and a personality cult forming around China’s top leader.

“If we look at the history of the People’s Republic of China, particularly the later years of Mao Zedong, a lot of disasters happened because there were no checks and balances and Mao appointed a lot of his supporters to leadership positions,” said Prof Wu.

Delegates and journalists had a little dose of drama at the usually staid closing session of the congress on Saturday.

At about 11am, as top leaders including Mr Xi sat on the stage at the Great Hall of the People, former leader Hu Jintao, 79, who was sitting next to Mr Xi, was seen being persuaded by two men to leave. A frail-looking Mr Hu appeared reluctant, even after one of them pulled him up from his chair.

As he was about to be escorted off the stage, Mr Hu said something to Mr Xi, who nodded. He also appeared to have said something to his protege, Premier Li Keqiang, and patted him on the shoulder. No explanation was given for his sudden departure.

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