Mao, Deng ... and Xi? Presidential ally ‘tests the waters’ for change to Chinese Communist Party dogma
Aide’s comments signal president’s name may be added to party constitution, analyst says
Xi Jinping’s chief of staff has signalled how the Communist Party is likely to enshrine the president’s ideological legacy, with a public statement that the leader’s political philosophy is “basically complete”.
In an internal address given in February and published on the social media account of People’s Daily ’s overseas edition on Sunday night, Li Zhanshu, head of the General Office of the party’s Central Committee, said Xi’s key speeches formed a “complete theoretical system”.
“They cover all aspects of reform and stability, domestic and diplomatic affairs, military operations and party rule,” Li said.
Li is a trusted Xi ally and his office is the nerve centre of the leadership’s daily operations.
His comments – originally delivered to party bodies directly under the Central Committee – underscore a widely held belief that Xi will follow in his predecessors’ footsteps to have his political philosophy formally recognised in the party’s constitution when members gather later this year for the 19th national congress.
Political scientist Chen Daoyin, from Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said that by publishing the comments, the leadership was testing the waters for the party constitutional change.
“I think it’s a very obvious sign that the leadership is drumming up support for the amendment at the 19th party congress this autumn, which will see Xi’s political philosophy added to the party constitution,” Chen said.
In a symbolic practice formally recognising their ideological contribution and standing within the party, every key Chinese leader since 1949, from Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, has had his political theory written into the party constitution at a national congress, adding to the party’s ever-expanding “guiding ideology”.
Hu’s “Scientific Outlook on Development” was included at the end of his first term in 2007, and Jiang’s “Three Represents” at the 16th congress five years earlier, when he retired as the party’s general secretary. But so far only Mao and Deng have had their name attached to their contribution – Mao’s is called “Mao Zedong Thought”, and Deng’s is “Deng Xiaoping Theory”.
In the February speech, Li called on cadres to uphold “the spirit of general secretary Xi Jinping’s series of important speeches” as a “guiding ideology”, phrasing Chen said pointed to the inclusion of Xi’s name at the party congress.
Li also gave an overview of Xi’s political theory, saying it included some of Xi’s signature policies such as supply-side reform, the “new norm for economic development” and a comprehensive perception of national security. Among them were also “the four comprehensives”, which include the fight against corruption and “ruling the country by law”.
Though none of these ideologies has been removed from the party constitution there is no guarantee that they will have lasting impact.
“I doubt if Xi’s ideology would be fully applied after he retired,” Chen said. “Jiang’s and Hu’s were sidelined once they stepped down.”