One of the most notable developments during the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s name has been written into the party constitution alongside Mao Zedong — the founding father of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) — and Deng Xiaoping — the person who launched China’s economic reform.
In comparison, neither of Xi’s two immediate predecessors — Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao — have their names enshrined in the party constitution, although Jiang’s signature slogan “Three Represents” and Hu’s “Scientific Development” were added into the constitution after they retired.
In addition, even though Deng Xiaoping’s name was written into the constitution, the move was actually pushed forward after his death by Jiang, Deng’s successor.
Therefore, even though there have been previous signs of Xi’s growing power, as The Diplomat has reported, Xi’s unusual elevation in nfluence and prestige within the party as well as the whole nation still profoundly unsettled many observers of China.
On October 26, the CCP hosted its last major press conference in Beijing to close the 19th Party Congress, and offered some explanation for the move to enshrine Xi’s name in the constitution.
During the press conference, Wang Xiaohui, the executive deputy director of the CCP’s Central Policy Research Office and deputy director of the Central Propaganda Department elaborated on why Xi’s name can be written into the party constitution, while some other leaders’ names can’t.
Wang claimed that it is “a common practice” not only in the international communist movement but also in Western ideological and theoretical circles for a party leader’s name to be used to describe a theory or some guiding ideology. Wang gave the examples of “Marxism and Leninism, and our country’s Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory.”
As for “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” — the actual phase that has been added into the party constitution — it “is the essence of the wisdom of the party, the summary of the people’s practical experience,” according to Wang. “Comrade Xi Jinping, as the main founder of the thought, has made a significant contribution to the theory.” Thus it’s “well deserved” for this theory to bear Xi’s own name.
“It also reflects our party’s maturity and self-confidence in theory,” Wang added.
Although Wang’s reply is full of political jargon and propaganda, the fact that he had prepared a detailed answer to this specific question showed that the CCP was actually ready for and well aware of the criticism worldwide.
Notably, the Central Policy Research Office is in charge of producing the CCP’s theories and policies. Wang Huning, a newly elected member of the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee — China’s highest group of leadership — has been serving as the head of the office for 15 years. The Central Propaganda Department, Wang Xiaohui’s other affiliation, is the highest organ that control China’s media and ideology.