Marx, Deng… Xi? To the Chinese president’s growing array of titles, the ruling Communist Party says Xi Jinping can add important Marxist thinker.
The party on Thursday praised Xi’s contribution to ideology, adding to intense propaganda promoting his personal image as Xi begins a second five-year term as leader.
Xi, 64, has emerged as the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong in the 1970s. He has taken control of an unusually wide range of political, economic and other functions, a break with the past two decades of collective leadership.
His image dominates official propaganda, which has prompted suggestions Xi is trying to build a cult of personality, evoking memories of the upheaval of the 1960s and ’70s.
Party spokespeople reject such talk, insisting Xi is the core of its seven-member Standing Committee, not a lone strongman.
Xi’s name and a political theory attributed to him were added to the party constitution this week, making him only the third Chinese leader cited by name after Mao and Deng Xiaoping, who launched economic reform in 1979.
A reference to Deng Xiaoping Theory, or “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” was added only after the late leader’s death.
A party spokesman said Xi’s status was justified due to his “significant contribution” to ideology.
“Using the names of party leaders for theory or guiding ideology is common practice in the international communist movement. For example, Marxism, Leninism, or our country has Mao Zedong Thought or Deng Xiaoping Theory,” said spokesman Wang Xiaohui at a televised news conference.
“Xi Jinping’s ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics in a new era’ is the crystallization of the wisdom of the party and the masses,” said Wang.
“He made a significant contribution to the creation of this theory,” said Wang. “So use of his name on this theory is deserved.”
On Thursday, Xi’s face was splashed across the covers of major Chinese newspapers and magazines. Only he was shown, not other members of the new Standing Committee appointed on Wednesday.
“The Xi Jinping Era,” said the headline on Vista magazine, published by the ruling party newspaper in the Ningxia region in the northwest.
Political phrases associated with Xi’s two most predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao were added to the party constitution but not their names.
Xi serves as party leader, president of China and commander-in-chief of the military, as well as leader of party bodies in charge of economic reform, national security, internet security, foreign affairs and financial regulation.
Xi has steadily tightened central control over the party and led a marathon anti-corruption crackdown that has snared potential rivals and successors.