18th Party Congress

Hu's pet theory made a guiding tenet of party

Outgoing general secretary sees his 'scientific concept of development' reach elevated status accorded the thoughts of Mao, Deng and Jiang

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 7:08am

Communist leaders ended their five-yearly congress yesterday by formally elevating Hu Jintao's pet theory into a guiding party tenet, enshrining the retiring general secretary, at least on paper, as one of modern China's great stewards.

Delegates amended the party's charter to place Hu's "scientific concept of development", which advocates pragmatic and well-tested policies, alongside its guiding political ideology and the theories of Hu's predecessors Mao Zedong , Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin .

"The congress unanimously agreed that along with Marxism-Leninism, 'Mao Zedong thought', 'Deng Xiaoping theory' and the important concept of 'three represents', the 'scientific concept of development' should be made a part of the party's guide for action in the party constitution," the congress said in a statement released after the closing session.

Elevation of the concept was said to be a top legacy issue for Hu as he prepared to hand control of the party to Xi Jinping . Hu is expected to cede the presidency to Xi in March.

Hu first adopted the "scientific development" concept in 2003 and has, as with his promotion of a "harmonious society", repeatedly returned to it over the past decade as he steered the country through an era of rapid resource consumption, increasing pollution and a widening wealth gap.

The concept was first incorporated into the preface of party's constitution at its 17th congress in 2007. The latest revision has given more even prominence to the theory, setting it as a "guide for action".

Such an elevation has become custom for outgoing leaders so they can leave their mark on the party and cement their legacy.

In 2002, the party incorporated Jiang's "three represents" theory, which helped open party membership to private-sector entrepreneurs.

"The main argument is whether [Hu's theory] will capture something important for the new leaders to use in the long transition they are in the midst of," said Kerry Brown, who heads the University of Sydney's China Studies Centre. He said putting Hu thoughts in the constitution "at least gives another plank of stability".

Steve Tsang, director of the University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute, said that while Hu's scientific development idea would get incorporated, he did not think the party constitution revisions were "where Hu is looking to leave his legacy".

Tsang said Hu "would be looking more at entrenching his group's position and possibly a greater degree of institutionalisation of the succession process".

Liu Kang, director of Duke University's China Research Centre, said Hu's theory underpinned China's recent emphasis on environmental protection and sustainable development, focusing on diversifying the nation's export-reliant economy.

The session also changed the constitution to explicitly endorse reform and opening-up as "the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics" and made a nod towards growing environmental problems by promoting "ecological progress".