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China’s Xi Jinping consolidates power with new ideology


China's Xi Jinping consolidates power with new ideology

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Some say Mr Xi (R) is creating a Mao-like cult of personality

China's President Xi Jinping has created his own political ideology, in a step towards entrenching his position at the top of the Communist Party.

Top officials have made multiple mentions of "Xi Jinping Thought" at the Communist Party Congress.

The party is widely expected to rewrite its constitution to enshrine this theory before congress ends next week.

The move would elevate him to the level of previous leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Correspondents say it would signal Mr Xi's enormous authority within the party, and make it virtually impossible for others to challenge him.

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Mr Xi opened the Communist Party congress – which determines who rules China and the country's direction for the next term – in a three hour speech on Wednesday.

On Thursday, numerous senior party officials praised "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era" in state media reports, and said it was "the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context".

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Media captionBBC China editor Carrie Gracie has a look at the Communist Party messages all over Beijing

Start of the Xi Jinping era?

Carrie Gracie, BBC News, China editor

China's politics are secretive and coded, but when the members of the Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee all start using the same phrase at their party congress, it's clear something big is coming.

At panel groups to discuss Xi Jinping's keynote speech, top leaders carefully echoed the unwieldy phrase "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era". And the phrase is also now prominent in official media.

Both are strong signals that Xi Jinping will achieve what predecessors have failed to do for 20 years – he will officially join the pantheon of China's transformative leaders by getting his name written into the party constitution at the close of congress next week.

If the first three decades since the communist revolution formed the Mao Zedong era, and the second chapter was the Deng Xiaoping era, China is now on the brink of declaring this the Xi Jinping era.

Previous Chinese leaders have come up with their own political ideologies which have been incorporated into the party's constitution or thinking. How these ideologies are named reflects on the leaders' importance in the party.

None, besides party founder Mao Zedong, have had their ideology described as "thought", which is at the top of the hierarchy, and only Mao and Deng Xiaoping have had their names attached to their ideologies.

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Image copyright EPA
Image caption More than 2,000 Communist Party delegates are attending discussions at the congress in Beijing

"Xi Jinping Thought" has 14 main principles which emphasise Communist ideals and also:

  • Call for "complete and deep reform" and "new developing ideas"
  • Promise "harmonious living between man and nature"
  • Emphasise "absolute authority of the party over the people's army"
  • Emphasise the importance of "'one country two systems' and reunification with the motherland"

Since taking power in 2012, Mr Xi has been taking steps to cement his top position in the party and in wider Chinese society, leading some to accuse him of creating a Mao-like cult of personality.

These steps have included a wide-reaching corruption crackdown that has seen high-ranking officials jailed or arrested. Some believe it is a political purge, but Mr Xi previously denied claims there was a "power struggle".

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However, on Thursday, senior official Liu Shiyu said a number of those caught up in the crackdown were arrested because they had plotted against Mr Xi.

He named top cadres Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang and Sun Zhengcai as among a group of "hugely corrupt" high-ranking officials who "plotted to usurp the party's leadership and seize state power".

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Media captionHot air balloons, drones and Airbnb bookings – all of the things banned in Beijing during congress

The congress, which takes place once every five years, will finish next Tuesday.

More than 2,000 delegates are attending the event, which is taking place under tight security.

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