China's Xi Jinping is officially its most powerful leader since Mao

Xi Jinping at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party. (Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
  • The name of President Xi Jinping has been written into China’s constitution.
  • This makes Xi the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
  • The change was supported by 2,300 Communist Party members at the close of the party’s congress on Tuesday.

President Xi Jinping has become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

Xi’s name was added to China’s constitution on Tuesday, the first time a living leader’s name has been added since Mao ruled from 1935 until his death in 1976.

China’s Presidents usually have their political ideologies added to the country’s constitution, but only Mao and Xi have had their names included in the title of those theories in the constitution.

The amendment, called “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” was approved by all 2,300 delegates attending the congress. Xi is now considered the most important party leader alive — above former presidents and his eventual successor.

This departure from tradition indicates immense party support for Xi and his strict leadership style; that support could be crucial as Xi eyes a potential third term as president, which would also break with the current two-term tradition. The biggest indicator for Xi’s 2022 plans could emerge on Wednesday, when the party’s new senior leadership is announced.

If Xi does not give a nod to a young and experienced successor under 60 years of age, or ignores unofficial retirement-age rules, it may indicate the Chinese president will seek a third term in the next five years.

The Chinese constitution stipulates a president can only serve two five-year terms. However, Xi could rally party support to stay for a third term or continue leading from his other role of party secretary general — which actually outranks the president. Both options are more likely with Xi’s strong party support. Another option is to revive the title of party chairman, a label that has not been used since Mao Zedong.

During the congress’ closing session, party leaders referred to Xi as the country’s “core” leader, a term first used to describe Mao.

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