China's leadership reshuffle 2017
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President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, an effort to revive trade along ancient trade routes, will be incorporated into the Communist Party’s constitution. Photo: EPA

Xi Jinping’s pet projects packed into Communist Party canon

The party’s constitution to cement president’s leadership with references to anti-graft campaign, among others

President Xi Jinping’s absolute authority over China’s 88 million-strong Communist Party was cemented on Tuesday with its decision to incorporate Xi in name and thought in the party’s constitution.

The inclusions – released at the end of the party’s five-yearly congress in Beijing – were a package of principles under the banner “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, and ranged from politics, to economics, the military and society.

But Xi also managed to get references to various other pet projects from his first five years into the party charter, including his sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

“The congress has agreed that pushing ahead with the anti-corruption battle will be written into the charter … in order to maintain the party’s vigour and vitality,” an official party document on the changes said.

Xi’s global vision to “create a community of shared future for humanity”, a concept he touted in a speech at the United Nation’s headquarters in Geneva in January, also scored a mention, as did his “Belt and Road Initiative”, a geopolitical and economic blueprint to boost trade and investment throughout Asia to Africa, Europe and beyond.

The “Belt and Road Initiative” is one of President Xi Jinping’s signature projects. Photo: Bloomberg

On the economic front, Xi’s call to “let the market play a decisive role and let government function better” was repeated in the charter, as was supply-side reform, an administrative push to retire excess industrial capacity and cut debt. Both references were widely seen as falling short of embracing a market economy.

The amended constitution also underscored the party’s “absolute” leadership over the military. The changes come in the aftermath of a sweeping military reshuffle induced by the purging of former Central Military Commission vice-chairmen Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong for political conspiracy and corruption.

In addition, the constitution stresses the need for more sustainable development and confidence in the country’s culture – both traditional and revolutionary – to realise the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Political historian Zhang Lifan said the additions basically reflected the values of Xi, a member of the elite who came of age in the decade-long Cultural Revolution.

“The charter revision reflects that power is more concentrated in Xi,” Zhang said.

Capital Economics China economist Julian Evans-Pritchard said Xi appeared to command near-unprecedented political power.

“The strongest evidence comes from [Tuesday’s] revisions to the party’s constitution, while Xi’s banner term was enshrined in the constitution alongside the banner terms of his predecessors,” Evans-Pritchard said.

While Xi’s predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, also made contributions to the party’s constitution, neither was featured by name. Xi’s theories were listed alongside with those of late leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

But Zhang said it was unclear what real impact Xi’s thoughts would have on the way the party was run.

“I doubt whether party members will faithfully abide by the constitution. As the party is ruled by itself without supervision from other parties, the effectiveness of party discipline remains a question,” he said.

Additional reporting by Frank Tang